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James Spader (#110 of 2)

Summer of ‘88: Jack’s Back - Double Your Spader, Double Your Fun

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Jack’s Back</em> - Double Your Spader, Double Your Fun
Summer of ‘88: <em>Jack’s Back</em> - Double Your Spader, Double Your Fun

Jack’s Back reminded me of the late Roger Ebert’s oft-quoted saying “it’s not what a film is about, but how it’s about it.” With plot ideas from jarringly different sources, the film should seem indecisive about its intentions. But writer-director Rowdy Harrington clearly knows the clever plan by which all these pieces fall together; his intention isn’t transcending the genre so much as toying with the audience’s expectations of it. Jack’s Back has a serial killer, a murder mystery wherein you immediately see whodunit, a man wrongly accused, memory-inducing hypnosis, and psychically linked twins, one of whom not only is the victim in the aforementioned murder, but also may be the serial killer. There may be too many ingredients, but the pleasure of the film comes from watching how this genre jambalaya cooks.

Nineteen eighty eight has its hands all over the film: moonlight pours through the slats in open blinds, illuminating the smoky interiors of buildings; people have mullets and the remnants of Joisey hair; a dreadful (even by 80’s standards) rock song blasts across the opening credits, followed later by a synth-heavy score replete with lonely saxophone solos selling sex. Unlike most ’80s slasher movies, the sex stays on the soundtrack, but Jack’s Back succumbs to that genre’s penchant for the “it’s only a dream” sequence. How Harrington handles this familiar trope is the film’s biggest and most ingenious surprise.

Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump

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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump
Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump

Born in the U.S., but now dividing her time between Los Angeles and Dublin, director Steph Green was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for her short film New Boy, a sensitive portrait of a young African lad struggling to settle into a new school in Ireland. The theme of coming to terms with a dramatic life change is once again central in her confident, boldly stylized feature debut Run & Jump.

Set in a picturesque Irish town, the film begins with the return to the family stead of Conor (Edward MacLiam), a 38-year-old carpenter and father of two who’s suffered a damaging stroke, leaving him severely mentally restricted. In response, his spirited wife, Vanetia (Maxine Peake), has brought an American neurophysiologist, Ted Fielding (Will Forte), into the household to observe Conor’s condition and interaction with the family for two months. Welcomed with curious fascination by Vanetia and the children, but greeted with some suspicion by Conor’s extended family, Ted soon finds himself becoming inextricably woven into the family in ways he hadn’t imagined. The unusual, shifting dynamic of the triangulated central relationship makes the film constantly engaging on a narrative level, with Green using the inherent awkwardness of the situation to locate nuanced, character-based humor rather than externally imposing it on the drama.