Jayne Mansfield's Car (2013)
Critic Consensus: Jayne Mansfield's Car assembles an impressive number of talented actors, but the screenplay -- co-written by director and star Billy Bob Thornton -- never gives them much of anything to do.
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as Jim Caldwell
as Kingsley Bedford
as Carroll Caldwell
as Skip Caldwell
as Jimbo Caldwell
as Phillip Bedford
as Camilla Bedford
as Vicky Caldwell
as Neal Baron
as Naomi Caldwell
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Critic Reviews for Jayne Mansfield's Car
There's a terrific movie struggling to escape from this overplotted, overedited, overdetermined stew ...
With its sprawling array of characters and anecdotal, ramshackle structure, [the film] feels more like a collection of interrelated short stories cobbled into an flavorful but ultimately unwieldy narrative.
It's one thing to explore the messiness of familial relationships and regret against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, and something else entirely to try and shove every jot and tiddle in place before the closing credits roll.
Jayne Mansfield's Car isn't likely to set America's theaters on fire, but it's a powerful whisper of a film.
Overall, the rambling "Jayne Mansfield's Car" is almost as big a wreck as its namesake.
In its best moments, you can see what the film might have been with half a dozen fewer characters.
Audience Reviews for Jayne Mansfield's Car
In "Jayne Mansfield's Car," a woman had run away from her family to start a new one in England. Decades later, she dies. Her last request is to be buried back in her native Alabama which her old family has complicated feelings about, as her new family accompanies her body. "Jayne Mansfield's Car" wastes a very good cast that includes Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Billy Bob Thornton(who also directed and co-wrote), Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Ray Stevenson, Frances O'Connor and Katherine LaNasa on a cliche-ridden story that just seems satisfied with recycling tired stereotypes about the South(strange, considering Thornton is from Arkansas), the English and the 1960's. In fact, France O'Connor is about the only one of the cast to rise above the occasion. Which is a shame because there are some good thoughts via this family haunted by war that the best way to make someone a pacifist is to drop them in a war zone.
An all-star cast, in a film written and directed by, and aso starring, Billy Bob Thornton, about a good 'ol boy southern redneck, Jim Caldwell, with a morbid curiosity in fatal car wrecks, played superbly by Robert Duvall, and his eccentric, hugely dysfunctional family, set in 1969. It is also about war and peace, the generation gap, and how family is defined. Big Jim is one cold-hearted sumbitch who at one point laments that his eldest son, who never saw action, turned out to be pretty normal while the younger two, who enlisted, saw heavy action, and came home heroes are mighty screwed up. It is about how different generations see war, based on their experiences. The heat of the small-town Alabama summer just drips off the screen and the dialog seems genuine and unforced. There is a dark humor that trickles in and out of various scenes, which otherwise might have become overbearing and depressing. I thought it a well done film, in spite of one little plot twist toward the end that went off in an absurd direction I liked it. A lot.
Billy Bob Thornton tells stories like a novelist. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with that, but when I see a scene that is nothing but flavor in a movie I really want it go somewhere. Like when Kevin Bacon dives in the water with his two nieces: I felt the relief from the heat, but it didn't mean anything and I think in a movie--I mean you don't have all day--every second has to mean something or it reads like a home movie. That's not to say I didn't like the flavor. It means I'm conflicted about this film.