When writer/director David M. Rosenthal was thirty years old, he met his eleven-year-old daughter for the first time. That was the inspiration for Janie Jones, a new Tribeca Film DVD release starring Abigail Breslin, Alessandro Nivola, and Elisabeth Shue, arriving on standard digital platforms and DVD January 31, 2012.
Janie Jones (Breslin), a 13-year-old girl, is unceremoniously dumped on the father (Nivola) that didn’t know she exists by her mother, a druggie entering rehab. When dad Ethan Brand couldn’t remember Mary Ann Jones (the mother) and refused to believe he is a father, she deserts the kid at a club Ethan is playing with his band. An understanding, young police officer convinces Dad to take care of the girl because the alternatives are not attractive.
Janie Jones is a coming of age story, but it’s not the young girl who grows up (she’s more mature than either of her parents), it’s Dad. Caught in a downward spiral, Ethan loses his girlfriend (Brittany Snow) and his band’s contract, and alienates his bandmates (nicely played by Joel David Moore and Frank Whaley). Even his manager (Peter Stormare in a top performance) bails on him when he needs a loan to redeem the guitars his daughter had to hock to bail him out of jail.
When Ethan learns of Janie’s musical talent, a bond begins to form between them, although he has a long way to go as a father. Determined to continue his career as a solo act, Ethan soon finds that becoming musical partners with Janie might be the way to go (especially since he’s run out of other ways). Breslin and Nivola bring a natural chemistry to the roles of daughter and father, and the evolution of their relationship rings true.
Abigail Breslin is a standout as the girl who is still a child, though circumstances prevent her from enjoying her childhood. She is convincingly lost in the strange world of tour buses and traveling from gig to gig, heartbroken at being abandoned by her mother and left with a father who doesn’t want her, and never sure when she will be disappointed next.
Janie Jones is a sensitive rendering of a story that is all the more sad because we know these things happen. It premiered at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival and released in theaters and VOD in October 2011.
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