Jane - New Release Review
Director: Sabrina Jaglom
Starring: Madelaine Petsch, Melissa Leo, Chloe Bailey, Chloe Yu
Written by: Sabrina Jaglom, Rishi Rajani
Produced by: Deborah Liebling, Madelaine Petsch, Nic Philips, Adam Wescott
Cinematography by: Diana Matos
Original Score by: Anna Drubich
In an attempt to regain some sense of control after the death of her best friends Olivia embarks on a social media-fueled rampage against those that stand in her way.
In the history of the High School drama genre, it's always been a proven winner if you've got a great selling point attached to your project. For example, in recent years, films like ‘Lady Bird’, ‘Booksmart’ and ‘Boyhood’ have all taken a swing at drama while also being infused with another genre or had a strong auteur director behind it. When you don't have these other features to pull people in, you end up making a teenage drama in the ilk of something you'd find popular on television. ‘13 Reasons Why’, ‘Gossip Girl’, ‘One Tree Hill’ have all found an audience because of their relatability; creating a cast of characters we can live through week to week and understand their emotional woes. With ‘Jane’, it often feels like it was a loose idea for a side plot on one of these popular shows. An idea that's definitely been executed much better on other shows, including the films star's own show, ‘Riverdale’.
Being a fan of Madelaine Petsch, I was pretty excited to see her not only starring but also producing. When starring in ‘Riverdale’, Petsch makes the most out of whatever ridiculous storyline the writers have come up with that week. She’s taken roles in various other films, including 'Sightless', 'Polaroid' and the upcoming 'The Strangers' reboot and I genuinely think she’s an actress worth following. In 'Jane', Petsch’s character Olivia, is dealing with the recent passing of her best friend who had taken her own life 6 months prior. Olivia has been struggling getting by day to day. When her college application is deferred, Olivia becomes an emotional wreck with no one to turn to. She begins to see visions of Jane, haunting her from a distance. Olivia soon turns to her old friend, Izzy (played by Chloe Bailey), hoping that she’ll be able to make life feel normal again. Izzy soon tells Olivia that Jane had left her Connect page (basically Facebook) open on an old laptop. They decided that they’ll use Jane’s profile to cyberbully other students, to make life go their way.
Now if you think that last sentence really took a tonal turn? That’s what the film presents us with. First time director, Sabrina Jaglom, really wants us to root for the bad guys here in the same vein as the classic 80s teen film like 'Heathers', but sadly 'Jane' doesn’t have a script that can back up these characters enough to make them interesting. Petsch and Bailey have great chemistry but they’re given nothing to work with. They’re often in scenes either crying or staring off into the distance. When they’re finally given a scene at a party where they’re allowed to reminisce about the good old days, you can see the actresses come to life and enjoy themselves. Unfortunately, this scene is cut short due to a character who’d recently been drugged by our heroes, having a fit and ending up in the ICU.
Sabrina Jaglom makes some interesting choices while directing. Some good, some bad but it always kept me interested even when nothing interesting was happening. Teen dramas can become cheesy and melodramatic at times, but Jaglom is able to keep the story rooted in reality with its visual style and naturalistic performances. Saying that though, this film has one of the most lifeless party sequences I’ve ever seen. I let it off because it could have been a covid filming issue, but oh my, does it feel like Neil Breen shot the party. My other problem I had with the movie was that Madelaine Petsch is 28 in real life, and some scenes feel silly when she’s meant to be playing a 16-17 year old. It’s a problem that often curses high school movies but it really felt out of place here.
‘Jane’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel of the High School based drama, but it’s acted well enough and short enough (89 minutes) that it’s harmless. I’m not the target audience here, teenagers might eat this up and find it interesting, but an older audience have seen this story told better in other places.
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- Adam Neeson
'Jane' is available on Digital Platforms from 101 Films on February 13th