Judge Paul Pritchard can't help but think this is less Natural Born Killers and more Natural Born Whiners.
Love. Obsession. Murder. Caught on Tape…
…And no, we're not talking about Judge Paul Pritchard's wedding video.
Facts of the Case
Having been kicked out of college, Jimmy spends his time videotaping every minute of his mundane existence. When he films family friend Judy, a shy quiet girl being bullied at school, he sets out to exact revenge on those responsible. Showing the tape to Judy, she opens up to him and the pair begin a relationship.
Following an accidental hit-and-run incident, the couple's lives spiral out of control and a cross-country killing spree ensues as the pair seeks shelter at Uncle Rodney's commune.
Judging from the quote on the front of the DVD case that exclaims, "This is the film that Natural Born Killers wanted to be!," Jimmy and Judy clearly has itself a fan base. Now, while my opinion is no more valid than anyone else's, I can't help but find the quote to be not only wrong, but also misleading. For without doubt, Jimmy and Judy desperately wants to be Oliver Stone's infamous shocker.
Indeed, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then after watching Jimmy and Judy, Oliver Stone should be smiling from ear to ear. While originality is not a prerequisite of a good movie, it's best if your film is so indebted to the works of others that you are in danger of being ignored and dismissed as having nothing new to say, a fate that befalls the debut feature from writer/director combo Jon Schroder and Randall K. Rubin.
Shot in the style of a video diary, Jimmy and Judy, like the recent Cloverfield, documents events as they happen from the video camera of Jimmy, who films everything, from his counseling sessions to his having sex with a prostitute. The guy obviously has a lot of batteries and tape. The first problem with this technique is that, in this instance, it is nothing more than a gimmick; once you get past it, there is very little substance underneath and certainly nothing you haven't seen done far better before. Second, it insists on using tricks that The Blair Witch Project used nearly ten years ago that don't really lend themselves to the lovers-on-the-run genre. While Blair Witch would often have events transpire just off camera, playing on our fears of the unknown, here those same techniques lose all impact and just seem derivative of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's work. Almost like the director felt the need to include it because, well, that's what movies shot this way do, isn't it?
The real crippler though is the films attempts to be hip, edgy, and cool. See, Jimmy is obviously cool because he drinks, hangs out with drug dealers, and whips his genitals out at any given opportunity. He also utters the most unnecessary use of the "N" word I've yet heard. (Word to the wise: If you're going to use a word that can cause so much offense, at least have a decent reason. Please don't use it just for shock value. It just makes you look childish). It's also difficult to understand Jimmy's motivation and what exactly he is rebelling against. He clearly has a well-off family, so is he reacting against their materialistic lifestyle and their nauseating dinner parties? Possibly, but when the only thing he talks about with any passion is fast food, it really doesn't give us much of a glimpse into his mindset. The filmmakers fail to instill any motivation into their characters, leaving them as two-dimensional cardboard cutouts that whine and moan about not being understood and go on about how life is so unfair. Well boo-hoo!
Similarly when we get to Uncle Rodney's commune, a sort of Mecca for life's dropouts, and meet the residents, we are presented with faceless drones that spout the usual dross; working for a living sucks and by living in a mobile home in a field, we're sticking it to the man. Sure, let's see what happens when you get sick and need hospital treatment but don't have any health insurance. Let's see who sticks it to whom then, buddy.
An audio commentary offers an interesting insight into the process of making the film, especially with its slightly unorthodox shooting style. Deleted and extended scenes complete the special features. Nothing spectacular then, but for an independent film it's nice to at least get something other than trailers.
Audio and video are both serviceable. While the picture is relatively detailed, the shooting style dictates that both the lighting and framing of shots is not really going to produce a particularly captivating image.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite initially being shocked by his bloated appearance, especially considering a DVD cover that belies his look in the film (nice bit of airbrushing, I assume), Edward Furlong gives a solid performance. The script may not give him much to work with, certainly nothing original, but he gives his best shot at it and comes out relatively unscathed.
Similarly Rachael Bella does some good stuff here as Judy. In fact the role of Judy is ultimately the more complex and rewarding. Despite Furlong's efforts, Jimmy never once managed to elicit anything more from me than disdain. Judy, on the other hand, is clearly looking for someone to lift her from the mire she finds herself in at the start of the film. When she witnesses Jimmy's revenge on those who had previously wronged her she at last finds someone who, at the very least, has shown an interest in her. As the story progresses she becomes more dependent on the increasingly destructive Jimmy and begins to take on his more repellent traits. Her character arc is one of the few high notes of an otherwise dull experience.
For a film that so desperately wants to be edgy and anti-establishment, it sticks rigidly to the standard three-act structure and throws in so many genre clichés it soon becomes tiresome. But for the performances of its leads, this film would be without any merit whatsoever.
Finally, just because you've seen the works of Stone, Scorcese, and Tarantino doesn't mean you're well-versed enough in film to be able to make a good movie. If it were the case, I'd be a hotshot writer/director rather than being a mild-mannered IT analyst by day and a part-time DVD reviewer by night. Sadly so many young filmmakers today seem content to make cover versions of their favorite films, with the aforementioned directors being the most imitated. While I applaud Anchor Bay for supporting the indie scene, I just wish the filmmakers themselves would show more imagination than is evident here and not just rely on a gimmick to stand out.
Mickey and Mallory won't be losing any sleep over these two. Unoriginal and too reliant on a gimmick, Jimmy and Judy just doesn't pass muster. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Audio Commentary with Producer/Writer/Director Randall K. Rubin, Producer/Writer/Director Jon Schroder, and Cinematographer Ben Kufrin
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