JUMP's Smart Script Gets Hamstrung By Its Out-of-Chronology Execution
Jan 8, 2014
Ah, the wonderful redemptive qualities of New Year’s Eve! Who doesn’t want to welcome in the New Year in the arms of a loved one? Who wouldn’t want to party hearty all night long knowing that when you open your eyes tomorrow it’ll be yet another day? And who shouldn’t let one more year tick by without making (and keeping) a resolution to live a fuller life, to really go after your dreams, and to finally put your existence back on the right track?
If JUMP is any indication, then maybe the people of Belfast still have some lessons to learn about how to simply survive New Year’s Eve without making a donkey out of yourself … if you live through it, that is.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Greta (played by a smoky Nichola Burley), Marie (a pixie named Charlene McKenna who could give Zooey Deschanel a run for her money), and Dara (I’m in love with Valene Kane) are three girls all just wanting to have fun on New Year’s Eve. The problem is that they’re all torn apart with their separate angsts and issues, each with varying degrees of severity. While they’re on separate paths, fate has destined them to collude as well as collide – along with a few other malcontents – and, before the night is over, they just might learn a little something about themselves and this crazy thing called life.
JUMP has been adapted from a stage play written by Lisa McGee, and I can’t help but wonder if all of this may’ve made a better set piece than it does a movie. That isn’t to say that it’s bad because much of it is really quite good. In particular, Burley, McKenna and Kane’s performances give this entire flick the backbone that it much deserves: while Burley’s chips are vastly direr than her counterparts, McKenna and Kane make for an often hilarious ‘Abbott & Costello’ as they try to navigate the nights and the bars while both dressed in slutty outfits. The three skip from one misadventure to the next, finding and losing themselves and even the chance at happiness in more ways than most characters do in this smart caper-infused film (there’s a heist, and some dynamite humor in a rather unfortunate automobile accident); much of it feels a bit too theatrical at times, but that’s easy to forgive.
What’s a bit harder to stomach is the narrative structure of the film. Taking a cue from PULP FICTION (though others have certainly tried this to lesser effectiveness), JUMP’s story jumps around quite a bit: we’re shown several sequences out-of-chronological order, and I believe the purpose scripters Steve Brookes and Kieron J. Walsh (who directs) hoped would be served would be the ratcheting up of the merriment. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it worked all that well, mostly because there was little to no pay-off along the way (as there was in, say, PULP FICTION). Instead, they saved it for the end – where basically the audience is left with the consequences of it all – thus robbing the viewers of both identification with their plights as well as understanding what was occasionally happening ‘when.’ Again, it’s a bit of trickery that makes more sense by the conclusion; it just caused some unnecessary confusion along the way. The deceit ends up hampering an otherwise smart and often times deeply witty script, and it exploits some otherwise excellent work by the three lovely ladies.
Kudos for trying something different, but, next time, let’s keep it linear, shall we?
JUMP (2012) is produced by Blinder Films, Cyprus Avenue Films, and the Irish Film Board. DVD distribution is being handled by Breaking Glass Pictures. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is an English-spoken-language film, but be warned: some of these accents are very thick, and, unfortunately, there’s no subtitle track available (a big miss, in my opinion). As for the technical specifications … ouch! The motion picture is deftly photographed with some smart cinematography, but, to be blunt, this sound mix is basic stereo; throughout 80% of the film, that’s acceptable, but there’s a healthy portion of the tale that takes place in nightclubs on New Year’s Eve, and it’s very very very hard to hear the dialogue, if at all possible to decipher. However, if it’s special features you want, then you’re in for a nice assortment: the disc boasts an audio commentary with director Walsh and producer Brendan Byrne, storyboards, cast and crew interviews, a photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer. Well done in that department, folks: extras are always appreciated!
RECOMMENDED. If you were to write down a list of positives and negatives, I think a film like JUMP would have vastly more plusses than it does minuses; but the problem is that the minuses here tend to be vastly more significant than the plusses. Great performances and a smart script can rarely overcome a narrative disadvantage, and JUMP suffers from jumping into the non-traditional out-of-chronology storytelling that worked to solid advantage in PULP FICTION. Also, a better sound mix (2.0 stereo?!?) – or at least one that was more viewer-friendly – would’ve helped me better understand what these people were saying when they were in noisy environments; you never want your audience to have to work so hard at the bare essentials – only leave your messages elusive, not your dialogue.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Breaking Glass Pictures provided me with a DVD copy of JUMP by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.