Jasper Jones 2017: A middle of the road Australian offering

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Jasper Jones 2017
Jasper Jones 2017: A middle of the road Australian offering
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Jasper Jones 2017

Jasper Jones 2017 is an Australian mystery drama film directed by Rachel Perkins. The film was released in 2017 and is based on the novel of the same name by Craig Silvey.

JASPER JONES is a coming of age story about Charlie Bucktin, a bookish boy of 14. On the night that Jasper Jones, the town’s mixed race outcast shows him the dead body of young Laura Wishart, Charlie’s life is changed forever. Entrusted with this secret and believing Jasper to be innocent, Charlie embarks on a dangerous journey to find the true killer. Set over the scorching summer holidays of 1969, Charlie defeats the local racists, faces the breakup of his parents and falls head over heels in love as he discovers what it means to be truly courageous.

Jasper Jones 2017
Jasper Jones 2017 (Source: St. Louis International Film Festival)

 

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Jasper Jones 2017: A middle of the road Australian offering

Based on Australian author Craig Silvey’s beloved novel of the same name, this semi-successful and well-received Australian offering looks to capture the magic that was found in Silvey’s paper version of this tale of death, love, racial tension and growing up in a small Australian town of the late 1960’s but Rachel Perkins film lacks a certain spark that would’ve made Jasper Jones one of the year’s must see local productions.

Perkins film certainly looks and sounds the part, thanks to quality contributions from acclaimed composer Antony Partos, DOP Mark Wareham and production designer Herbert Pinter but the heart and soul of the story of young boy Charlie Bucktin and his sudden friendship with aboriginal outcast Jasper Jones 2017 after the two get caught up in the death and cover up of local girl Laura Wishart never truly gels on the big screen thanks to some so-so performances and plodding editing.

Following on from his mediocre turn in Pan and so-so turn in fellow Australian big screen event Red Dog: True Blue, Australian actor Levi Miller has the tough task of bringing Charlie to life and the young performer who appears in almost every scene of Perkins film doesn’t quite make it work to the levels the tale needed him to hit.

Jasper Jones 2017
Jasper Jones 2017 (Source: Shire of Manjimup)

Supported impressively by newcomer Kevin Long as best friend Jeffrey Lu, Aboriginal actor Aaron L. McGrath as the titular Jones and These Final Hours and The Nice Guys breakout star Angourie Rice (once more stealing the show acting wise), Miller has failed to make his mark in 3 big lead turns now and whenever you see him alongside Rice or Australian staples like Toni Collette and Hugo Weaving (it’s not an Aussie film without him) you realise that Miller’s performances leave a lot to be desired.

The other problem with Jones is that its central mystery centring around just what happened to cause Laura’s mysterious death is intriguing in a sense but once we are made aware of the answers to the questions we and the characters have, it feels like a bit of a letdown to what has been 90 minutes of build-up that includes detours into racial tensions and coming of age dramas.

(Author: eddie_baggins – imdb)

Jasper Jones 2017: Uneven storytelling makes the whole feel less than the sum of its parts

Craig Silvey’s bestselling novel Jasper Jones has been lauded for its deft exploration of racial tensions and small town prejudices through the lens of a coming of age tale and a who-dun-it mystery. While the big screen adaptation, which Silvey co-scripted, retains much of what made the novel a hit, its loosely structured narrative doesn’t translate quite as effectively on the silver screen.

Set in the small mining town of Corrigan, Western Australia in 1969, Jasper Jones tells the story of bookish 13 year old, Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller). One night an Aboriginal boy by the name of Jasper Jones 2017 taps on his bedroom window asking for help. Startled by his sudden appearance but persuaded by his desperate pleading, Charlie agrees to follow Jasper into the woods to the gruesome sight of a dead young girl hanging on a tree branch. Jasper makes it clear to Charlie that he didn’t kill the girl and reveals that he was in a relationship with her. The only problem is that he doesn’t want to go to the police for fear that their racist attitude will see him unjustly blamed for her death. Charlie, who believes Jasper and is eager to help him, agrees to hide the body in a pond nearby and to keep their discovery a secret.

Unfortunately what should have been a good set-up for a mystery film lacks one crucial element: there’s no reason to suspect foul play in regards to the girl’s death. When we first see Laura’s body hanging from the tree, there’s a more obvious conclusion to be made. Jasper instead begins to make up stories surrounding her death and centers on the idea that an old recluse, Mad Jack Lionel (played by the excellent but criminally underused Hugo Weaving), must have murdered her. Charlie believes Jasper, as there have been rumours that the old man has done bad things in the past, but there’s not enough reason for the audience to suspect the old man’s involvement in matters. The suspicion surrounding her death seems only to exist only in the eyes of the children and this robs the film of much of its tension, particularly towards the end of the film when the kids finally decide to confront Mad Jack.

Jasper Jones 2017
Jasper Jones 2017 (Source: Readings)

However, the confrontation still ends up being the stand out moment in the film as it results in some startling revelations about Jasper Jones 2017 as a character. It’s a well-crafted dramatic scene that is only undermined by its lack of cohesion with the rest of the film. For most of its running time, the film weaves together a collection of different subplots and side stories revolving around Charlie’s life, including his parent’s rocky marriage and his growing feelings towards local girl Eliza (Angourie Rice). Jasper only periodically intersects with the narrative and he remains a largely passive character, disappearing for large swathes of the film at a time. When the ending sharply puts the focus back on him, it feels forced and disjointed; not allowing the revelation to hit with the devastating impact the film is clearly striving for.

That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its moments but overall Jasper Jones feels like an amalgamation of disparate parts that only come together under the broad hat of a coming of age story. There’s a bit of everything: a touch of mystery, a pinch of comedy mixed in with a bit of family drama and racial tension. While parts of it work well, they never really come together cohesively, making the whole feel less than the sum of its parts.

(Author: DJKwa – imdb)

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