Movie Review: ‘Jayne Mansfield’s Car’
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kevin Bacon, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Katherine LaNasa, Ray Stevenson, Robert Patrick, Frances O’Connor
Jayne Mansfield’s Car is a film I was set to see at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year, but due to illness I was unable to make it and I sent my podcast co-host to see it instead. So I anxiously waited for it’s home video release to check it out, and I quite enjoyed the film.
The main attraction with the film for me was that it was directed, co-written and starring Billy Bob Thornton. Being a fan of his, I wanted to see what sort of film he had crafted. The other attraction was the cast; this is an ensemble piece with an amazing cast of talented actors.
The story at hand is set in 1969, and deals with two families who are brought together by the death of a woman who means a lot to them. The Caldwell family led by Jim (Robert Duvall) and the Bedford family led by Kingsley (John Hurt). You see Jim was married to Naomi, they had three sons Carroll (Kevin Bacon), Jimbo (Robert Patrick) and Skip (Billy Bob Thornton) and a daughter Donna (Katherine LaNasa) and then she up and left for England where she married Kingsley, who had a son Phillip (Ray Stevenson) and a daughter Camilla (Frances O’Connor) from his previous marriage. So the Bedford’s head to Alabama to bury Naomi and a clash/friendship of the families (both with each other and within) happens.
The film uses war as a conflict between the families, as well as the changing times. The sons served, and the fathers did also, but their age gap and experiences cause tensions. We have Carroll at odds with his father because he is a hippy, Skip hasn’t been the same since he was injured in the war and Jimbo didn’t see the same action as his brothers. We have the Bedford family who have their own issues, and they find a bit of a culture shock coming to Alabama.
We see bonds happen through the film, and it is a pretty nice thing to see all these actors together playing out the scenario. The two heads of the family Duvall and Hurt are great, both men sharing chemistry together and their scenes are rather engaging. Thornton, Bacon and Patrick made for a believable trio of brothers, and LaNasa was good as their sister. O’Connor and Stevenson also made for a good brother/sister pairing. The entire cast has chemistry together, and perhaps the most surprising was that of O’Connor and Thornton, their scenes were very good together.
This is a film that is both a drama and a comedy about family and changing times, and I felt it worked for the most part. I had a good time watching this unfold, and while the script perhaps needed a bit of work I thought the talented actors really brought it together.