Three Dramas from Anchor Bay
According to Greta (January 18/10)
Featuring an impressive performance from Hilary Duff, According to Greta follows rebellious teen Greta (Duff) as she's forced to spend her summer within a sleepy New Jersey town with her grandparents (Ellen Burstyn's Katherine and Michael Murphy's Joseph). Greta's distaste (and flat-out disgust) for her less-than-exciting surroundings is reflected in her increasingly antisocial behavior, yet the character inevitably begins to soften as she grows closer to Katherine and Joseph and even starts dating a kind-hearted local (Evan Ross' Julie). It goes without saying that According to Greta's eye-rollingly familiar premise - coupled with the protagonist's almost unreasonably sarcastic and sassy demeanor - results in an opening half hour that's nothing short of disastrous, with the completely predictable atmosphere often threatening to negate the genuinely strong work from the various performers. There's little doubt, however, that the movie's unabashedly deliberate pace plays a significant role in its slow-but-steady turnabout, as director Nancy Bardawil - working from Michael Gilvary's screenplay - does a nice job of developing the film's laid-back landscape to such an extent that Greta essentially becomes compelling by association. Duff's unexpectedly strong work ensures that her character's relationship with Ross' Julie is substantially more intriguing than one might've initially suspected, with the inclusion of several progressively poignant moments and a thoroughly satisfying conclusion cementing According to Greta's impressive transformation from bottom-of-the-barrel teen drama to surprisingly engrossing character study.
Jimmy and Judy
Though it boasts an almost unwatchable opening half hour, Jimmy and Judy ultimately establishes itself as a marginally entertaining first-person drama that benefits substantially from the two leads' compelling work. The storyline follows a couple of misfits (Edward Furlong's Jimmy and Rachael Bella's Judy) as they embark on a violent road trip after Jimmy accidentally kills a cop, with the bulk of the proceedings subsequently detailing their efforts to reach a fabled redneck compound (where they'll supposedly be surrounded by like-minded anarchists). There's little doubt that Jimmy and Judy's central visual conceit - the entire film has been shot entirely from the perspective of the two central characters - proves effective at holding the viewer at arm's length at the outset, with Furlong's almost aggressively obnoxious work as Jimmy initially exacerbating the movie's low-rent sensibilities. It's not until Jimmy and Judy begin to get to know one another (and eventually start to fall in love) that the film starts to become more than just an aimless exercise in audaciousness, as the palpable chemistry between the two stars infuses the narrative with an authenticity and sweetness that becomes progressively difficult to resist. The amiable atmosphere persists right up until the eponymous couple are forced to go on the run, after which point the increased emphasis on sleaziness slowly but surely drains Jimmy and Judy of its energy - thus signaling the movie's shift from likeable romance to tedious lovers-on-the-run thriller. And although William Sadler's short-lived turn as the aforementioned redneck compound's intense yet charismatic leader temporarily alleviates the stagnant vibe, there's simply no getting around the pervasively uneven nature of the film's structure - which effectively cements its place as an intriguing yet hopelessly uneven endeavor.