9 November 2011 | gradyharp
An Old Song Re-Sung - by a very talented cast!
The plot line of JANIE JONES has been used many times before - estranged child forced to live with runaway parent provides growth for both - but this story is apparently based on a true incident and perhaps that is one of the reasons it becomes rather endearing. Written and directed by David Rosenthal this somewhat overly long film works well and that is in no small art due to the sensitive casting.
Tattooed, alcoholic, almost has been rock and roll performer Ethan (Alessandro Nivola) tours with a mediocre band headed by manager Sloan (Peter Stormare) who somehow manages to keep things together for the band - Dave (Joel David Moore), singer and Ethan's girl friend Iris (Britanny Snow), Chuck (Frank Whaley), and Ulysses (Michael Panes). The band has been together for years and now is forced to play the sleazy nightclubs who will book second rate acts. Into this worn down group comes a surprise - Ethan's old squeeze Mary Ann Jones (Elisabeth Shue) whom Ethan hasn't seen for 13 years arrives on the scene with Ethan's 13- year-old daughter Janie Jones (Abigail Breslin). Ethan doesn't even remember Mary And nor does he buy the fact that he fathered a child, but Mary Ann has the birth certificate to prove it: Mary Ann is drug addict and can no longer care for Janie while she attempts to dry out so she literally dumps Janie with the reluctant Ethan and disappears. The remainder of the film is a struggle Ethan has at being unable to cope with life in general, the disbanding of the band because of Ethan's sociopathic behavior, Ethan's arrest and Janie's method of bailing him out when no one else will, falling downhill as a musician, and coping with the fact that Janie is around. The gradual interaction between Ethan and Janie demonstrates the difficulties of father-daughter bonding, but it also awakens in each of them the concept of being noticed, needed, and loved.
Both Alessandro Nivola (one of our finest actors today) and Abigail Breslin bring a depth of acting skills to these rolls. They are wholly credible and have our hearts all the way through. The smaller roles (including Frances Farmer as Ethan's wealthy mother form whom he is able to get funding because of Janie's presence as her granddaughter) are well written and beautifully acted. The film relies a lot on music and Nivola and Breslin sing and pay their own musical contributions. Yes the story may be tattered from over use, but the strength of the film is well worth the viewer's interest and time. Grady Harp, November 11