Powerful Father/Daughter Tale
The 2011 Tribeca Film Festival boasts a slate of good narrative films, and Janie Jones is one of them. It takes place on a Rock N’ Roll tour and concerns Ethan Brand (Alessandro Nivola), a “faded rock star” who gets a surprise visit from a woman he had a relationship with thirteen years ago. That woman (Elisabeth Shue) now shows up back stage, claiming to be the mother of Ethan’s thirteen-year-old daughter Janie (Abigail Breslin). Making things worse, the drug-addicted mother leaves Janie with Ethan so that she can get herself cleaned up. Ethan must then fend for the child while struggling to hang on to the loose strings of his fading career.
This well-depicted narrative only surfaces the rock n’ roll lifestyle of a wash-out, but it’s effective in portraying a father-meets-daughter relationship. Ethan does not have much going for him. He owes money to his landlord, has not made a record in years, is on drugs and alcohol -- and later finds that his girlfriend, the back-up singer of the band, is cheating on him with his lead guitarist. As things begin to crumble, his manager leaves, and Ethan still doubts that Janie is his real daughter. But as the two spend more time together, Ethan begins to see a resemblance. Janie has a beautiful singing voice and talent for playing guitar. In fact, already at thirteen she composes her own songs and plays “House of the Rising Sun.” This is the beginning of a growing bond that gets stronger and finally forms a powerful father-daughter partnership.
David Rosenthal, the film’s auteur, emphasizes the critical importance of casting actors who can play guitar and sing. “One of the things I hate about music movies is when it’s obvious the actors are playing badly to recorded music,” he says. Rosenthal, who based this story partially on his own experience, explained that “the character is not wildly different from me. I certainly hope I’m a better person than Ethan is at the start of the movie, but it was not a demanding transformation. It was a role I could enjoy living in.”
Abigail Breslin does a phenomenal job playing a 13-year-old girl seeking approval from her father. While one may sit and wonder at whether any forgiving and honest children like Janie Jones really exist, in this film her immeasurable devotion to her mother and father, coupled with her angelic singing, is remarkably honest. Breslin should be very proud of her work here. There’s not one false note in her fine Janie Jones performance.
Janie Jones is a Toronto Film Festival International Premiere and Tribeca Film Festival U.S. premiere. The film opens theatrically and VOD in the Summer 2011.
(Released by Tribeca Film; not yet rated by MPAA.)