REVIEW ROUND-UP: ‘Jimmy P.’ Stuns & Stumbles Out of Cannes

Jimmy P.

@guylodge: First real clanger of the Competition, and from one of my favourite directors in it, too. What’s French for “bummed out”?
@daveyjenkins: Wispy psychoanalysis drama in which AP appears to be repressing all his considerable strengths as a filmmaker.
@JHoffman6: full-on dud. Very disappointing.
@hitfixgregory: Jimmy P is a bad movie. Just that simple.

Ooh, this doesn’t sound good. If you’d have asked me what my most anticipated films of Cannes were heading up to the festival, this would’ve ranked pretty highly. Not because I’ve even seen any of Arnaud Desplechin’s previous work, but because the feedback on A Christmas Tale from Alex and others has been overwhelmingly positive. Also, how can a film so jauntily titled Jimmy P.: Psychoanalysis of a Plains Indian possibly fail?

Well, if you ask many a critic, it doesn’t. This is a good chance to let you know about the strict circle of twitter users I revolve in. While not same tasted, they are quite similar in what they find good or bad. When I go out to nail reviews for the round-up, however, I occasionally find a very different mood than the ones in the tweets. It gives very different perspectives on things.

Jimmy P.Getting back to the film, it follows the relationship between a psychiatrist (played by Mathieu Amalric) and a WWII veteran (Benecio Del Toro), and Scott Foundas of Variety was quite charmed by the dynamic formed between the two actors.

Among their other virtues, the scenes between Amalric and Del Toro bristle with an energetic contrast in personalities and acting styles, as the jittery, irrepressible Devereux slowly coaxes the stoic, monosyllabic Picard out of his shell. At first, Del Toro seems to be working in an extremely narrow range, but his ability to show the subtlest of gradations in Picard’s gradually improving condition becomes one of the quiet astonishments of this impeccable performance. Occasionally, Desplechin  breaks away from his intense central focus to show Devereux’s interactions with other Menninger staff and his visiting married mistress (well played by Gina McKee), but “Jimmy P.” is never better than when its two leads share the screen, a relationship all the more resonant and moving for Desplechin’s refusal to make it cutesy or contrived. (“Awakenings” this certainly isn’t, even if a breakthrough does loom at the end of the long, dark night.)

Mark Adams of Screen Daily praises both Desplechin’s director and the work of the cast.

Arnaud Desplechin, whose film A Christmas Tale screened in Cannes in 2008, makes great use of the locations, costumes and design, and shoots simply and elegantly, often ending scenes quickly and unsensationally and moving quickly onto the scene through fast edits. Benicio De Toro makes for a gentle yet physically striking Jimmy, his sad eyes and browbeaten expression perfect for a man bearing great internal pain, while Mathieu Amalric is a bundle of energy, ticks and mannerisms.

Simon Gallagher of WhatCulture! may give the most pertinent reason for skepticism in my most interior circle: Comparisons can easily be made to The King’s Speech.

It is, at its heart a tale of redemption, played through a culture-clash dynamic as the French analyst and his patient build a relationship and work through his issues, and it’s hard to resist the similarities with The King’s Speech, which almost certainly lends elements to the central relationship, whether consciously or through simple circumstantial proximity. Like The King’s Speech, there is some pleasure to be had in the way the central pair play off one another and how the patient develops as we learn more about him and his condition.

UPDATE: Guy Lodge of In Contention gives us an effective representative of the not-blown-away branch. He even questions how Arnaud Desplechin could possibly direct a film like this.

Playing to virtually none of his strengths either as a stylist and a storyteller, it’s a curious misfire from a director whom one had hoped would return stronger to English-language fare after 2000’s coolly received “Esther Kahn.” Certainly, neither its doughy structure nor its vague, tin-eared evocation of post-WWII middle America are a immediately indicative of a passion project that Desplechin has reportedly been nurturing for over two decades: we’re always plagued the longest by the problems we have the least natural ability to solve, and that’s a pearl of psychiatric wisdom you can have for free.

So it’s really hard to say where the majority will land on this film? Will they favor the French director’s apparent turn to the sentimental, or turn on it like my inner circle has? We’ll have to wait and see, but I might venture that Spielberg’s jury could be all over this one?

PREVIOUS CANNES ROUND-UPS:
Heli (Dir. Amat Escalante)
Young & Beautiful (Dir. Francois Ozon) and The Bling Ring (Dir. Sofia Coppola)
The Congress (Dir. Ari Folman)
The Past (Dir. Asghar Farhadi)

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