Riley Jeough and Juno Temple in Bradley Rust Gray's Jack and Diane
Jack and Diane, the indie romance starring Juno Temple and Riley Keough, has ridden the festival circuit for several months on a wave of supernatural buzz. The movie has been sensationalized in countless write-ups as a “lesbian werewolf story,” a new addition to the rash of teen horror-romances like the Twilight vampire saga and the upcoming zombie drama Warm Bodies that have become so popular of late.
At the recent Locarno Film Festival, the movie was amongst just a handful of films in this genre that made the cut - others included Ben Wheatley’s dark comedy Sightseers and the Swiss slasher film Das Missen Massaker (The Swiss Miss Massacre). And like these other films, while Jack and Diane has been marketed as one thing it is, the real story in fact, something entirely different.
Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray, the film focuses on two teenage girls who fall in love during a summer in New York. It juxtaposes intimately shot scenes between the actresses Temple and Keough against intricately designed stop-motion animation of twisting and shifting organs, denoting the gradual psychological change of the teenagers’ as they fall deeper and deeper in love. It’s an interesting concept with an execution that has been thus far divisive amongst those who have seen the movie.
In fact, last week’s screening of the film at Locarno’s Auditorium Fevi served as a kind of microcosm of some of the reactions the film has garnered since it first began to make the rounds. At intermittent points during the narrative there were dead silences, smatterings of awkward laughter, several noisy walk outs, and a couple people moved to give a standing ovation.
Juno Temple and Riley Keough in Jack and Diane
As interesting as it was to be seated in the audience while the story unfolded, it will be that much more interesting to see the overall reception it gets once it opens in theatres in November. Because at this point, it isn’t any real secret that Jack and Diane is most definitely not like the other teen romances it has been compared to. That’s apparently part of its appeal.
But by that same token, the movie has somehow allowed itself to be recast as an “indie” horror romance. Yet what sets it apart from its peers is not necessarily its small scale but the fact that it’s horror elements are non-existent. It isn’t a “lesbian werewolf story.” It is a love story with, as its website describes, “werewolf-like visions” that serve as a metaphor for the transformative and frightening aspects of young love.
These visions pop in and out of the telling of the story without any real connection to it, making them seem as gimmicky and novel as the label “lesbian werewolf story” itself. In a movie landscape where films get screened, swallowed up, and forgotten every year it’s somewhat understandable that Jack and Diane should try and capitalize on the recent supernatural phenomenon while it is still relevant. It’s unclear who should get the “blame” for how the project has been received thus far and will be received in the future. The filmmakers have never explicitly marketed it as an indie Twilight movie, and yet, even its recently released trailer has been for the most part rather coy about what sort of movie it actually wants to be. And that, really, is what makes the movie so lacking - just like it’s hormonal young lovers it follows a constant ebb and flow of indecision that, in the end, makes it far less interesting and far more confusing than it probably intended to be.
Zeba Blay (@zblay) is from Accra, Ghana and lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is a regular contributor to Digital Spy, Africa Style Daily, and Afropunk, and runs a personal movie blog called Film Memory.