JIMMY AND JUDY (2006)
Starring Edward Furlong, Rachael Bella, Chaney Klay, William Sadler, AJ Buckley, Gay Storm, James Eckhouse, Gregory Patrick Agnew, Lindsay Beamish, Jane Leigh Connelly, Denver Jade, Crystal Wilson and Patrick Bristow.
Screenplay by Randall K. Rubin and Jon Schroder.
Directed by Randall K. Rubin and Jon Schroder.
Distributed by Outsider Pictures. 97 minutes. Rated R.
The world has changed one whole hell of a lot in the half-century since James Dean broke out with Rebel Without a Cause. That movie seems positively chaste today – however it is still very much responsible for movies like Jimmy and Judy being made. For it tapped into a very simple human truth – rebellion and bad behavior can be romantic and sort of sexy when viewed from a discreet distance. The bad boys in these films are always shadowboxing against nothing in particular. They have a vague realization that they are unhappy with life and the world, but no specific gripes so much as a general apathy to society. (When asked what he was rebelling against, Dean contemporary Marlon Brando famously answered in his own 50s bad-boy epic, The Wild One, “What ya got?”)
Edward Furlong – a long, long way from the cute little kid destined to save the world in Terminator 2 – plays Jimmy. He is a disaffected teen who has been thrown out of school, has parents who are freaks and sexual deviants, and spends most of his time doing vaguely antisocial things for no apparent reason (like poking roadkill with a stick, showing up at his parents’ anniversary party naked or bursting in on their cross-dressing S&M session). He also obsessively watches life going by through the lens of a video camera, filming everything that is going on around him while never really experiencing it. In fact, in these early scenes it is rather distracting that he does film some nasty things happening, rather than actually helping out the people he is spying on.
Things change for him when he finally hooks up with Judy, another outsider, who he has had a crush on for years. Honestly, Rachael Bella seems way too pretty to be the total pariah in the school that she is portrayed as. In fact, all of the bad girls in this movie (and there are several of them) look more like cheerleaders than outcasts. However, we’ll give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt; beautiful girls do get into trouble, too. At first, Judy seems to be totally disinterested in this weird guy with his camera, but when she catches flashes of the bad boy lurking inside, she feels a weird attraction towards him.
When Jimmy realizes that his sense of danger is an aphrodisiac to her, he steps forward and starts to live out some of the rebellious fantasies that he had always harbored. Once the genie is out of the bottle, they quickly get caught up in the thrills as they spin into an escalating cycle of violence and death.
The film is completely taped “by the characters” with Jimmy’s video camcorder – a gimmick that both gives the film an immediate power and at the same time tests the audience’s patience with disjointed periods where the camera is unable to come to rest on anything. One long scene is nearly completely audio while the camera rolls on a closed car door. The effect is similar to the one of The Blair Witch Project several years ago. Although this film is better made than that one, there is a reason that this style never quite caught on.
The movie is trying to have it both ways – in certain ways it seems to want to look at Jimmy and Judy as romantic rebel figures, but at the same time it can’t quite hide the fact that he is borderline psychotic and she is at the very least an enabler. (God, I can’t believe I just used that psychobabble word – see what this movie is doing to me?) So, while you are queasily fascinated and voyeuristically titillated by all the sex and violence going on around you – you never really like Jimmy. This is not the fault of Furlong, who nicely captures Jimmy’s self-destructive loathing of everything in the world that is not Judy – himself included, sometimes.
Judy, on the other hand, is a much more sympathetic, nuanced character and Bella does an extraordinary job at an extremely difficult role. She throws herself gamely into it, stripping herself physically and psychologically for long periods of time. Judy is a swirling tornado of self-doubt, violent urges and just-tapped sexuality.
The filmmakers try to stack that deck by making everyone in the film truly abhorrent. Any character that you get to know for even moments is selfish, ego-centric and offhandedly nasty. I don’t know if they are going for the “two wrongs make a right” defense, but it just doesn’t fly. Even if their victims don’t deserve sympathy for who they are and what they do, they do not usually deserve what is done to them.
Jimmy and Judy is a fascinating study of antisocial behavior; a more nuanced version of Natural Born Killers, a less mannered version of Kalifornia, a new millennium, totally disenfranchised take on Badlands or Bonnie and Clyde. The movie doesn’t exactly work in the long run. In the end, no matter how much the creators want you to feel for the couple, you can’t get over the fact that they are simply bad people who do some completely horrific things. However, it certainly is a very absorbing near miss. (9/06)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 22, 2006.