Everyone likes some summer lovin’ in NYC, especially when two teenage girls and cannibalistic nightmares are involved. At the heart of Jack and Diane, we find a rather simple love story, about two teenagers stumbling while they navigate the new and overwhelming feelings that come with first love. Beyond that, there is an element of horror that reveals the darker underbelly of an all-consuming love that, while clearly executed, doesn’t always feel like part of the story. Or maybe, its just the part we don’t want to know.
While visiting her aunt in New York City, dainty and guileless Diane meets strong, silent and cynical tomboy Jack. Immediately and silently drawn to one another, the two young girls soon find that their feelings are heavier than they can carry, difficult to understand and even more so to communicate. Diane, consumed and frightened by this new relationship, begins to have violent nightmares, and when Jack discovers that Diane is leaving for school at the end of summer, she is also presented with the challenge of holding onto Jack’s love and trust.
Director Bradley Rust Gray (The Exploding Girl), creates a visually moving vehicle for the sweet and passionate love story between Jack and Diane. Gray captures mood, tone and feeling within settings to either heighten sensations or let us sit and listen. He knows how to effectively convey they story at every point, but its the story itself that feels like its being hijacked throughout the film. We become engaged in the subtleties of the relationship between these girls as they grow to learn and love each other, but that engagement is taken hostage at sporadic points by monsters, cannibalism and derailing sub-plots.
Juno Temple and Riley Keough both give austere performances, and that is why we want to continue following them without all the blood. Temple, who looks like she could be 14-years-old in the film, gives Diane both doe-eyed sweetness and spunk. Keough, whose beauty is visible even under a guise not dissimilar to Lady Gaga’s male alter-ego Joe, portrays a bruised and prickly Jack without withholding her underlying sensitivity. Together, they really do tread ever so lightly through new terrain.
Just like how Jack & Diane can’t quite swallow their new-found love, Jack and Diane is a film that is also hard to swallow. Its not easy blending love and horror. The two elements feel like two separate entities within this film, like two separate movies.. they never fully blend.
Jack and Diane makes its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and is featured in the World Narrative Competition.