Jayne Mansfield's Car - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Jayne Mansfield's Car Reviews

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Bathsheba Monk
Super Reviewer
January 19, 2014
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.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ September 15, 2015
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.
Super Reviewer
½ December 19, 2014
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.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ December 9, 2013
"Here in Jayne Mansfield's car, I feel safest of all; I can lock all my doors; it's the only way to live, if you can get past the Satanism, in Jayne Mansfield's car!" By no means am I a religious man, but if cars are supposed to be so safe, then Mansfield must have earned herself some fury from above, because I've seen the pictures, and that car wreck wasn't even remotely as pretty as he was, you know, before she flew under that tractor-trailer. Yeah, they don't talk about it much, but Mansfield was so into Satanism that she dated Anton LaVey and everything, which, of course, makes her even more irrelevant to the central themes of this film, because where she was more of a Bible burner, we have a whole lot of Bible thumpers here in my beloved sweet home, Alabama (Curse you, Lynyrd Skynyrd, for making that description annoying, at least around here). Yup, this flick is set in Alabama, and you know what, it doesn't exactly help fight the rumors that if it's not racist and dumb here, then there's nothing interesting, not necessarily because this film isn't interesting, but because they shot this thing in various parts of Georgia, ostensibly so they wouldn't grace this fine soil with the presence of a cast full of celebrities, including a certain Albertville celebrity. Yeah, people, I don't want to sound like I'm showing off or anything, but my father knew a guy... who knew a guy who drummed in Billy Bob Thornton's band, The Boxmasters, and actually has an... uncredited extra role in this... extremely low-profile film... I think. Okay, maybe I'm not the best showoff in Alabama, but just by ostensibly being somewhere in this film, Mike Bruce is one degree away from Kevin Bacon, which would be great and all if he didn't recently get into a terrible motorcycle accident (Maybe Gary Numan is right when he says that it's safer being in a car, unless, of course, you're Jayne Mansfield). In all seriousness, folks, try to give some support to good ol' Bubba Bruce, at least more so than you're showing support for this film, for I believe the reason why Billy Bob Thornton decided to get back into filmmaking after over ten years was to prove that he can, in fact, make a film that is less successful than "Daddy and Them", which is alright with me, because as one of the few people who is actually seeing this, I can tell you that it's pretty decent, though not without some serious problems, kind of like Jayne Mansfield.

There are a few refreshing elements here, and at any rate, at this point, it's hard to do something all that new with a film like this, yet there's no completely forgiving familiarity, you know, when material actually kicks in without Billy Bob Thornton, as filmmaker, trying to change things up with almost surrealistically strange occasions of storytelling overstylization. Really, the overstylized moments aren't too serious, but they're questionable enough when you take out of account their being underused, leaving the most recurring questionable attribute to Thornton's direction to be his almost trademark atmospheric dryness, whose thoughtfulness is effective at times, but generally bland, if not kind of dull. If nothing else, the atmospheric dryness stiffens pacing, making it hard to not notice how overdrawn length gets to be in this film, which, at about two hours, is not too terribly long, and certainly devotes a good bit of time of fleshing things out, but all too often fleshes things out too much with repetitiously excessive filler, if not excess material. Just about all of the layers to this plot are well-handled enough to be worthy, though when you step back and take things in, it's hard to not feel that this narrative is bloated, perhaps to the point of being convoluted, which makes it pretty ironic that the plot is ultimately still too thin for its own good. Now, with all of my complaints about familiar or excessive material, the biggest problems with this film is easily a lack of material, or at least a lack of focused material, for although this narrative is intentionally meditative, it's too aimless in subtle dramatic progression, resulting in a wealth of natural shortcomings that thin out potential and, with it, engagement value, in spite of inspiration. There aren't a whole lot of problems with this film, and in a moment, I will go into how well-done the film is in so many places, but at the end of the day, the final product falls short of rewarding, not necessarily because of pacing problems and the occasional piece of overambition to stylization, but because of mere limitations to narrative meat that faulty storytelling make all the clearer. I wish that this film could have been more, but as it stands, it hardly deserves the heat it's been receiving, having limitations to material that, upon rising, goes tainted, but enough inspiration to endear, and even sell a pretty enjoyable environment.

The film is pretty sharply presented from a visual standpoint, as Barry Markowitz's subtly handsome cinematography and Nicole LeBlanc's subtly convincing art direction go a long way in building an effective visual style, with broad, well-defined shots that give you a firm grip on a 1960s Alabama setting. Subtle style certainly looks might fine when you take it for what it is as mighty handsome, and quite frankly, it plays a pretty big part in selling this environment, which in turn plays a pretty big part in selling important themes dealing with shifts in society and differences between generations, although that's not to say that style is the only attribute to Billy Bob Thornton's direction. Thornton's directorial storytelling is characterized by a dry approach that dulls plenty of elements down, but almost just as often has a thoughtful aura that captures the humble tone of this aimless, but genuine narrative, and carries some subtly piercing bite when material really does kick in. The slow-burn heart at the core of Thornton's directorial performance endears, but what really keeps this thing going is Thornton's and Tom Epperson's script, which is flawed and with limited material, yet is not simply about as strong as it can be with a story concept this thin, but arguably outstanding, not just with its sharp dialogue and humorous moments, but very genuine characterization, which could have easily gotten stereotypical, but is believable and thorough well-realized, drawing colorfully well-rounded and deeply human characters with interesting background information and deep range that drive a layered, if aimless narrative which captures both the era and, to a certain extent, depths of this important time for society in principle-driven parts of America. Alas, storytelling is generally too draggy to compel all that much, but there are some very moving moments to break up a consistent degree of engagement value that I'm surprised is being overlooked by critics, no matter how tainted it may be, and if there is potential to this thin plot concept, decent direction and strong writing shed enough light on it to endear, perhaps as much as one talented cast. As I've been saying time and again, plotting material is mighty limited, but I don't fully grasp why Rotten Tomatoes' consensus would boast that Thornton's script "never gives [this cast] much of anything to do", for although there's not enough acting material to deliver on truly outstanding performances, most everyone delivers, even in the supporting cast, with Ron White being underused, but almost show-stealingly outstanding as comic relief who delivers on his trademark raspy whitetrash hilarity, while John Hurt, Ray Stevenson, Marshall Allman and Kevin Bacon deliver on their own show-stealing moments on a dramatic level, which is dominated by worthy leads Robert Duvall - who captures the estranged father role with his trademark stern, but somewhat vulnerable presence - and Billy Bob Thornton, who captures the dynamic Skip Caldwell character as the middleman between old-fashioned southern principles and '60s movements into the future, as well as a flawed human by his own right who is trying to find a path in his life. Outside of handsome visual style, acting is pretty much the only consistently strong element to this drama, and even then, it too goes held back by some serious limitations to the material within this thin story concept, yet there's still enough heart to the performances, both onscreen and off, to engage as quite decent, maybe even underappreciated, in spite of some loss in potential.

Overall, material is tainted with familiarity, if not overstylization, and delivered with a bland atmospheric dryness that emphasizes the aimlessness of draggy plotting, which is itself emphatic of natural shortcomings that are so considerable in this thin narrative concept that they ultimately drive the final product just short of rewarding, in spite of the handsome, era-capturing visual style, thoughtful direction, strong and well-characterized writing and inspired acting that make "Jayne Mansfield's Car" a certainly improvable, but endearing meditation upon family dysfunction and mending in the midst of change in society and principles.

2.75/5 - Decent
August 17, 2014
Not an overly compelling story, but some great performances and scenes. Also featuring a wonderfully understated anti-war message (which got a bit heavy at the end).
Frances O'Connor...sexy.
Katherine LaNasa...hot.
½ March 26, 2014
Superb cast ,and moments of genius,but painfully slow and mundane between the few moments of pure entertainment.Not at all what you'd expect with this name,which only refers to a Pop Culture moment taking place in their town.Not really worth an indepth review.The only highlights are Frances O'Connor reciting the Light Brigade naked ,and Billy Bobs character,badly burned in WWII ,wearing his medals directly pierced through his badly burned torso.I can't say I recommend this film
September 14, 2013
OMG this movie was a hoot. BillyBob Thorton has some of the most outrageous writing ideas. I will never look at reciting poetry naked while my partner wakes off the same way again. Odd film but worth viewing. The actor were convincing.
½ March 7, 2014
The oddly titled Jayne Mansfield's Car -- the "car" figures into one scene in the film in which a "decapitated" car was toured around different locations of the country as some kind of a morbid curiosity -- is directed by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade) who also stars in the film as a son of a judgmental and cranky Robert Duvall (The Apostle) in 1969 Alabama. After the death of Duvall's ex-wife -- who left him and the children years before (after the war) to marry another man in England to start a second family -- her body is returned to Alabama for a proper burial ... but accompanying it are her other children (Frances O'Conner [A.I.], Ray Stevenson ['Rome']) and her widower husband (John Hurt - Alien). The film is about these souls coming together and talking ... and about Duvall's three sons coming to terms with him and his disapproving -- of just about all things -- ways. As a veteran, Duvall has a different outlook on the world even though his sons (Robert Patrick [The Terminator] and Kevin Bacon [Footloose]) have also served. Bacon also has some father-son problems with his own son. Not much happens here as it is a study of people ... namely one between fathers and sons. I didn't dislike this film but it is a difficult one to recommend as little happens. The title is more interesting than the film itself. Like this review, it meanders ... there is some depth here; but you have to want to dig it out and put in the time to get the (paltry) reward. I liked the look of the film -- 1960's Americana with picnics and apple pie but that is the surface level. What lies beneath isn't as rosy.
½ September 3, 2013
Watched it last night and overall, found it to be a fairly good film. There are some drawbacks - most notably that the narrative is weak, especially in the beginning, without the story line becoming apparent until halfway through the film. This made me want to give up early, knowing it was a 2-hour film. Could do to be about 30 minutes shorter. Primarily a drama, with some very funny and heartwarming moments, the best performance comes from Kevin Bacon, though most of the cast puts in very solid work as well. Billy Bob Thornton obviously wrote the most quirky character for himself, and he does a great job in it. Unfortunately, Ron White's appearance is both unnecessary and devoid of acting (he's just being himself).
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ September 15, 2015
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.
July 5, 2015
Ensemble drama with a stunning cast. A death brings families from USA and England together and bring their problems too
Super Reviewer
½ December 19, 2014
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.
August 17, 2014
Not an overly compelling story, but some great performances and scenes. Also featuring a wonderfully understated anti-war message (which got a bit heavy at the end).
Frances O'Connor...sexy.
Katherine LaNasa...hot.
½ March 26, 2014
Superb cast ,and moments of genius,but painfully slow and mundane between the few moments of pure entertainment.Not at all what you'd expect with this name,which only refers to a Pop Culture moment taking place in their town.Not really worth an indepth review.The only highlights are Frances O'Connor reciting the Light Brigade naked ,and Billy Bobs character,badly burned in WWII ,wearing his medals directly pierced through his badly burned torso.I can't say I recommend this film
½ March 22, 2014
Review:
For some unknown reason, I really couldn't get into this film. It starts off well and the concept was great, but the director failed on the execution. It seemed to drag after a while, but I liked the various characters who all had there own personal issues. My expectations of the film was quite high because of the cast, but once that the whole family starts getting on, it turns a bit boring. With John Hurt, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton and Kevin Bacon, the director should have made use of the A Listers.

Round-Up:
Judging by the money that this movie made, it's obvious that I wasn't alone with the fact that this film just wasn't what it could have been. It's not that all of the actors and actresses didn't put in a good performance, it's just that it seemed like the storyline dried up after a while. The chemistry between the characters was quite interesting to watch, especially Duvall & Hurt who were great together and I loved the scene when Duvall was tripping in the woods, but nothing else really stood out in the movie for me.

Budget: N/A
Worldwide Gross: $15,000 (Terrible!)

I recommend this movie to people who are into there family dramas set in the 1960's who are drawn together by under unusual circumstances. 3/10
March 20, 2014
Well I have to admit in spite of these tepid reviews, I like this movie already just from peeking at the making of and seeing the cast...it is definitely an actor's movie...while I gather the story telling isnt great, it is one of those well worth watching just for the cast and their work. I find this to be the case for me with most movies I have seen directed by actors...the vast majority dont do very well, as often they are a bit obscure or too weird for the mainstream, not to mention low budget and too character driven for the mainstream and to not insult the public, just not the sort of thing studios spend the gadzoillions on marketing which is required for a film to go public these years...point blank...i am thinking of features i have enjoyed by other working or well known actors like TIm Blake Nelson (you know his face if not his name), Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi and others...this one too...while from these reviews, I suspect I will find it is not the best storytelling, I am sure I will enjoy it...so there..eat that Gravity #AllIsLost
March 17, 2014
A case where a great film is wasted on much of it's audience. Glad I didn't depend on reviews here to pick a film to watch.
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