Film Review: Jack and Diane

Teenage lesbians suffer through a doomed, allegory-laden romance in this horror-tinged love story.

Imagine a teenage lesbian love story directed by David Cronenberg and you’ll have some sense of the weirdness of Jack and Diane. Bradley Rust Gray’s attempt to weave horror elements into a fairly conventional narrative yields diminishing returns in this overly stylized effort.

The title characters—not to be confused with the subjects of John Mellencamp’s hit tune—are Diane (Juno Temple), a waif-like British teen spending the summer in New York City with her no-nonsense aunt (Cara Seymour), and Jack (Riley Keough), a tomboyish local with whom she forms an instant attraction.

The romance encounters various roadblocks, although their respective inarticulateness is less a problem for them than for bored viewers. Rather, it’s that both seem to be emotionally damaged, which results in bizarre physical manifestations. Diane suffers from a series of torrential nosebleeds and has a habit of turning into a fearsome, werewolf-like monster. Both traits eventually transmute to Jack, who also suffers severe cuts to her face when she’s hit by a cab while bicycle-riding.

Gray throws some halfhearted comic relief into the mix, such as Diane’s gagging when fed Jack’s favorite snack of sushi with ketchup, and her disastrous attempt to shave her pubic area which, judging by the amount of shaving cream she uses, apparently forms most of her body.

But the animated opening credits and intertitles and bizarre creature manifestations signal that the filmmaker is going for something deeper and more phantasmagorical. While these sequences, superbly created by the Quay Brothers, are certainly visually arresting, they’re neither scary enough to interest horror fans nor sufficiently symbolically resonant to give the film the depth to which it obviously aspires.

The young leads fulfill their roles perfectly, with Temple effortlessly projecting adolescent anxiety and Keough displaying real charisma as her tough-talking, butch lover. But their striking efforts are not enough to lift this languidly paced, pretentious effort above the level of bizarre curiosity.
The Hollywood Reporter