47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You're innocent, and innocent people get hurt"
Those familiar with Rebecca Miller's previous film Personal Velocity, an insightful triptych of three very different young women, will know that she's a director who's on the cutting edge of American independent filmmaking. But with her latest venture The Ballad of Jack and Rose; she seems to have really outdone herself. This astonishingly beautiful and perceptive tale...
Published on April 24, 2005
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Jack and Rose' has mood, but falls flat
Heavy on atmosphere as well as heavy-handed symbolism, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is an absorbing but strangely unconvincing new film by Rebecca Miller. Worst of all, it lacks a coherent narrative and strong dialogue as well, enough to sink a lesser work. To its credit, "Ballad" borrows the isolated atmosphere of Jane Campion's beautiful "The Piano." Yet Miller (the...
Published on April 15, 2005 by Yotam
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You're innocent, and innocent people get hurt",
Those familiar with Rebecca Miller's previous film Personal Velocity, an insightful triptych of three very different young women, will know that she's a director who's on the cutting edge of American independent filmmaking. But with her latest venture The Ballad of Jack and Rose; she seems to have really outdone herself. This astonishingly beautiful and perceptive tale presents, with an astounding veracity, themes of familiaral love, the loss of innocence, and the ultimate costs of idealism in a world where such ideals are no longer relevant or not even particularly welcome.
Boasting some of the best performances of the year, The Ballad of Jack and Rose opens with Jack (a fantastic Daniel Day Lewis) and 16-year-old Rose (Camilla Belle) sharing a tender and intimate embrace while lying on a Garden of Eden-like bed of grass. As they stare up at the wild blue yonder, one gets the sense that they're a complete, contained, and totally contented couple. It's not immediately clear how they are related to each other, but we soon learn that they are a chaste father and daughter. However, the ambiguity of their severely intense relationship quickly becomes unsettling.
It's 1986 and Jack and Rose are living on a remote East Coast island, the only holdovers from a utopian cooperative. Their world is self-sufficient, autonomous, and claustrophobic. They spend their days living off the land, and hiding out in a wooden, rambling shack that is nestled upon a windswept hilltop and over-grown with grass and wildflowers. Jack is originally Scottish, an old hippie, who came to America in the mid-60's carrying with him the hopes and dreams for a country that he thought America would become. An engineer by profession, over the years he has instilled in Rose a fierce intelligence, but also a wariness and distrust of the outside world.
Jack is dying of a bad heart, and he's angry about the world he cannot put in order; he also feels helpless about the beloved daughter who will soon be parentless. Rose feels as though she can't live without him, so when she tells him" When you die, I'm going to die" you know that she means it. Their problems are compounded when a slick land developer (Beau Bridges), who has begun building a lavish, modern subdivision, deliberately endangers the wetlands flanking the edge of Jack's property.
In an effort to get some domestic help and also to introduce Rose to the wider world, Jack invites Kathleen (Catherine Keener), his casual girlfriend from the mainland, and her two sons Thaddius and Rodney (Ryan McDonald and Paul Dano) to move in and assist with the household. But Rose, having been sheltered from influences other than her father, is not pleased to share her world with anyone new.
Rose is gradually becoming a woman, and she doesn't know how to be appropriate around new people. She's particularly upset that Kathleen is sharing her father's bed and dividing his attention. In an effort to get back at her father, she begins to solicit the attentions of Kathleen's boys, and sets in motion a series of events that forces Jack to confront the disorder and disappointment of his life.
Daniel Day Lewis brings total emotional heft to this role, vividly bringing to life the character's whole host of contradictions; it really is a tour-de-force of acting. His portrayal of a disappointed, bitter, but highly intelligent counter-culture type is fiercely earnest and totally empowering. Jack is a man of principle who is caught between his old world beliefs and a world that has long ago left him behind.
Jack is the epitome of a control freak who realizes, too late, that the depth of his devotion may well have poisoned his daughter. Camilla Belle brings to Rose a ferocious sense of the competitive; she's possessive, and potent, a seemingly innocent yet very willful seductress. She lashes out at her father and at Kathleen in a sequence of chaos-inducing maneuvers that can only bring heartbreak to the small collective.
The Ballad of Jack and Rose is a marvelously shaded mood piece that is probably more about issues and characters than it is about story. Miller has a languid, floaty, and wondering directorial style that lends itself well to this type of subject. Rhythmic and dreamy, both Day-Lewis and Belle respond to it all as if gasping in harmony. The film works on numerous levels - it's a statement about environmentalism, it's also a homage to a bygone world, but its mostly an intensely engaging and satisfying drama about a man who has been sidelined by the realities of life, and who could never live up to the ideas inside his head. Mike Leonard April 05.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little Ditty About Jack And Rose, A Father And Daughter Doin' The Best That They Can,
It's a rare occasion anymore when a film comes along that just feels different. Different, to me, is always good--even "bad" different can earn my respect for attempting something new. Well, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is "good" different. It's not about the plot, per se--but the atmosphere and characterizations portrayed. The setting is modern, yet strangely desolate. The characters are kind of trapped in a time warp, living an idealized existence from days gone by. The relationship between father and daughter is complex and unusual--sort of a friendship, almost a romantic pairing. It's this combination of unorthodox aspects that make "Ballad" (at best) an intriguing journey and (at worst) a bit self-important.
Daniel Day Lewis, always indispensable, plays Jack. An ex-hippie, he exists in isolation with his daughter on an island which used to be inhabited for communal living. His performance here is exemplary, a nice blend of idealism and radicalism. Camilla Belle, as his wizened daughter Rose, shows great depth as well. This is largely her spiritual and emotional journey as she faces life without the only man she has ever loved--her father. And their bond is fierce, almost too close by any conventional standards. Jack worries about his health, and what will happen to Rose upon his death. So he embarks on a romantic and financial venture with Catherine Keener to bring her and her sons to the island to be Rose's family.
This addition to Rose's lifestyle is a difficult adjustment. Her relationship with all three newcomers is challenging and tumultuous--but it is definitely a catalyst to taking Rose in a new direction. Launched out of complacency, she is forced to take the reins of her life as an individual--no longer part of a pair. The ending is surprising, thoughtful, and poetic. The final images have lingered with me.
I recommend "Ballad" for those looking for something a bit unusual. Great performances and beautiful cinematography are just two highlights. But it's the offbeat story and intellectually complex characters that I will remember most. While, at times, the film can be slightly uneven or heavy-handed--these are minor quibbles. This is an original film told in an original voice. KGHarris, 11/06.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BALLAD OF JACK & ROSE - JUST AN EXPERIMENT!!!,
I bought this film just because Daniel Day-Lewis was in it. I had to think about it even so because of what might be objectionable content and I didn't want to get into such a film with Mr. Day-Lewis. Thank goodness my interest in his performances overcame all this negativity and I went ahead. There are many reviews here that explain the movie in indepth detail. For me Daniel Day-Lewis makes this movie. He portrays his character (Jack) so well that you mourn for him and ache for the young daughter (Rose)who is going to live a large portion of her lifetime without this father who is absolutely everything to her but is very ill and will die soon. Still this pull toward each other in an unhealthy way is relatively new and they are trying to maintain the loving relationship they have without really confronting this problem. He definitely has the girlfriend, Kathleen, (who has two teenage sons that he had never met) move in with him and his daughter (big mistake) to help keep the relationship one of father/daughter but he tries to tell his daughter this is "just an experiment" to possibly get the help they need since he is so ill. Actually, he was in a panic over his feelings about his daughter when he made this decision, had never mentioned this girlfriend to his daughter, and there doesn't seem to be a connection other than physical with this woman, therefore it was destined to fail. The contrast of homelife before vs. after these people move in is absolutely terrible to say the least. If I had to start each day with these people after what had been my normal everyday life, I would have probably become self-destructive too. This "intrusion" into their lives is the beginning of the end. Rose is extremely hurt and angry and feels "tricked" into having to live with these people. This parent and child have been alone on this island many years, and feelings have become confused. She has begun to be seductive in her behavior and she wants to actively pursue this type of relationship with her father but he is overwhelmed with how to handle this situation and is overcome with guilt about the feelings he has for her. This film handles this departure from the norm in such a caring way that you become completely engrossed with their problems overall and understand how difficult this is for the father to confront and resolve. No one could have made me believe I would love this film as I do. Please don't be put off by what may seem to be a movie regarding unacceptable behavior because you will miss some of the best performances ever given, in my opinion, as well as a film you won't ever forget. I do hope that Daniel Day-Lewis will continue to make films. He is excellent at his craft. Do yourself a favor and try this. Just be aware that due to the problems addressed in this film, a lot of pain and anguish are involved and the end of this film is beautiful but absolutely heartbreaking.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Escape from utopia,
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Disregard completely the hostile and dismissive review from the New Yorker quoted by Amazon. This is a lovely film, and while I don't expect everyone will love it, most serious viewers will find something about it compelling. As others have noted, the acting is brilliant throughout, the island setting and cinematography are gorgeous. It has a literary feel, so some of the elements of the plot feel hightened, almost mythical, rather than literally plausible. That said, I did not find the characters or incidents of the plot particularly strange or forced. None of the characters are demonized or overly virtuous - Jack is nowhere near as arrogant and closed-minded as some of the aging radicals I have known, and Rose is not all that innocent or angelic. It's good to watch a film that delves deeply into human weakness, but leaves you with affection for all concerned. I haven't seen it mentioned in other reviews, but the script is often quite funny. Rodney's initial response to Jack and Rose is delightful, as are Rose's cold and deliberate attempts to get any man or boy within reach to teach her about sex. And the film does have something to say about ideals (wasted, misplaced or just out of fashion) and the need to make sense of one's life in retrospect. You should watch it.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good film for closet idealists,
Some people think that in order for a film to be worthwhile, the hero is required to be free of faults or mistakes. I disagree. In this film, the hero, Jack, is flawed. An idealistic commune-dweller from the sixties, he stayed at the commune with his daughter long after the rest moved on.
I do not believe this work of art was intended to please the critics or to be tidy. Which is a nice change.
Jack discovers two ironies at the end of his life: First, that despite his ideals and differences of "taste," he is no different than his nemesis, the real estate developer played by Beau Bridges. To create an instant family for himself and his daughter, Jack pays his mistress to move in with her two teenage sons. Then he pays her to move out when it it doesn't work. Afterwards, the real estate developer offers to buy his land. Jack says to his daughter, Rose, "Everything is for sale."
The second irony was that by holding his beloved daughter too closely, sheltering her and depending on her too much, he failed to prepare her for a life without him.
There are no car chases or intricately choreographed fight scenes in the movie. There is, however, gorgeous scenery, a delicious soundtrack including Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival, and subtle, compelling acting. The film offers fuel for thought on the consequences of enmeshed parent-child relationships, the conflict between social idealism and modern "progress," and an example of "what not to do," when blending families.
If you ever wondered what it might be like to throw off the bonds of capitalism and live "off the grid," this beautiful film might be an amusing breath of fresh air.
Or, let's face it - if you've ever been irritated by a social idealist with a superior air, and wanted to see that person get a wake up call, this film might bring a naughty bit of malicious glee.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So very pretty,
A Kid's Review
This movie is just so pretty. It is about the 'happiest man in the world' as he calls himself when his daughter rests against his shoulder while he tells her stories. Jack has raised Rose since she was five when her mother left them. When she was eleven, Jack took her out of school because he didn't like the way she was being taught. Now she is sixteen and her father is the only man she has ever loved.
Jack is troubled because she is a young woman now, and their natural physical familiarities are becoming uncomfortable, the nestled sleeping together in winter, the natural hugs and kisses of a father and daughter, the trusting love of a daughter for father.
Jack realizes he should no longer be alone with her. He believes that she needs an older woman in her life. He also has a heart condition and may not have that much longer to live. He tries to create a family for her by inviting an old girlfriend and her two teenage sons to live with them in the secluded northern wetland acres of a former commune.
Almost anything can happen and it does but it is all secondary to the theme of the human love between this interesting and unusual father and daughter as they struggle to bring each other honorably to their last embrace. Daniel Day Lewis creates an unforgettable character, as pretty as an honest man.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film,
This film disappeared locally right after its theatrical debut, so when IFC showed it recently, we rushed to catch up with it. Having admired its director, Rebecca Miller in all her films, we were right in seeing it in the wide screen of the main theater because that seems to be the perfect way to watch this intimate picture.
Ms. Miller takes us to an island off the coast of the continental mainland to set her story. As the film opens we watch Jack Flavin with his teen age daughter as they are perched on the roof of their strange cabin with the roof being made of lawn grass. They are father and daughter who have stayed in the land where years ago, had been a commune. We don't know what happened to Rose's mother, and nothing is clarified. We gather Jack and Rose have a special bond that at times border in incest.
Jack believes in keeping the island the way it is; development is coming fast and furious in the way of luxury homes being built in what probably will be a gated community where people of the same background and financial means will live, in sharp contrast as the commune idea that attracted Jack to the place. Jack, having inherited money from his father is financially secure, but still lives in a primitive way in a basic type of life. We see Jack as he takes pills; we realize he is not a well man.
When Jack takes a side trip to the mainland, he visits Kathleen, a single mother with two teen aged sons. Jack convinces her to come to live with him at the island. What Jack doesn't count is on Rose's reaction to the invasion to her space. In fact, the hatred for the invaders is instant. Katheleen, a kind woman herself, tries to reach Rose without any success. Rodney, one of the sons, has a weight problem, and has studied to be a hairdresser. Thaddius, is the rebel, who has an eye on the beautiful Rose.
Jack's basic intention for bringing Kathleen is to help him during his last days because he senses his days are numbered. When Thaddius suffers an accident, Kathleen takes the opportunity to go back home, leaving Jack and Rose to fend for themselves.
Ms. Miller takes an elegiac look at the situation making Jack into an almost Shakespearean character, that is, bigger than life. Jack is lovingly photographed in his many moods. The beautiful Rose's face shows all the emotions going on inside her. The director ought to be congratulated for involving us in the film and making us care for what will happen to Jack and Rose.
Daniel Day-Lewis is an actor who doesn't work much these days and that is our loss! As Jack, Mr. Day-Lewis has the rare opportunity to show his vulnerability and seems to be naked in front of our eyes because he doesn't hide the emotions from us. We know at any given moment what this man is thinking and what makes him tick. Mr. Day-Lewis gives a fabulous performance as he dominates the picture completely.
Camilla Belle is Rose. This young actress proves he is up to the task the director demands of her character. Not only is she beautiful, but she clearly exudes an innate intelligence that pays off in her portrayal of the girl who sees her world fall apart and has no way to stop what is killing her father.
Catherine Keener makes a valuable contribution to the film as Kathleen. She clearly is a gentle soul who is in love with Jack and wants to stay with him until the end. That is not meant to be because Jack realizes that in "importing" her to the island she gets in the way of the perfect balance between father and daughter.
Ryan McDonald makes the confused Rodney come alive. This young actor is a natural. The rest of the cast include minor appearances by Beau Bridges, Jason Lee, Jena Malone and Paul Dano, who plays Thaddius the other son.
"The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is clearly not for a wide audience because it's too intelligent to get a broader distribution, but the fans of Rebecca Miller will always cherish this film for what she brought to it and for the magnificent performances she got from her cast. The film is beautifully photographed Ellen Kuras and has an interesting score by Michael Rohatyn.
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Jack and Rose' has mood, but falls flat,
Heavy on atmosphere as well as heavy-handed symbolism, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is an absorbing but strangely unconvincing new film by Rebecca Miller. Worst of all, it lacks a coherent narrative and strong dialogue as well, enough to sink a lesser work. To its credit, "Ballad" borrows the isolated atmosphere of Jane Campion's beautiful "The Piano." Yet Miller (the daughter of the late playwright Arthur Miller) fails to capture that film's warm humanity and believability, instead falling for a series of cliched and absurdly conceived plot twists.
At its best, "Ballad" is gorgeously and sensitively filmed by acclaimed cinematographer Ellen Kuras. The film's setting, an island off the coast of New England, lends itself to continual shots of surprising beauty. Miller expertly creates evocative moments out of graceful and fluid visuals, unanticipated but effective editing choices and a masterful use of music (Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Nina Simone among others). But Miller's obvious plot overpowers these mesmerizing attributes about half an hour into the film.
The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, the brilliant method actor -- and Miller's husband -- who acts here in only his second film in eight years. He plays Jack Slavin, an ex-hippie who's the only remaining member of a commune founded in the '60s. Jack, whose wife long ago abandoned him, lives in isolation with his young daughter Rose (the promising Camilla Belle), with no connection to the outside world besides occasional visits to the mainland.
Jack is a difficult character -- at once hypocritical and elitist (he insults and threatens real estate developers) -- and Day-Lewis nails him in all his complexities with effortless skill. Jack's health issues (he suffered a heart attack several years earlier) provide a constantly ominous threat that complicates their life together.
It is apparent early in the film that Rose's relationship with her father is unusual, if not outright disturbed. Rose, who was taken out of school at 11 and barely has had any human contact since then (not even television), latches onto her father with both filial and apparently sexual love. Her near-incestuous obsession leads her to repeatedly declare her intention to commit suicide when he dies, a promise that captures the film's dire moroseness. To Belle's credit, she is largely convincing in this ever-difficult role, though she occasionally exaggerates in the more emotionally fraught scenes.
On the other hand, Catherine Keener -- who plays Jack's lover Kathleen -- is outright melodramatic, detracting painfully from the film. "Ballad" takes a terrible turn when she moves into Jack's home, along with her teenage sons, in order to take care of the increasingly sick man. Kathleen's boys provide Rose with her first contact with people her own age, introducing her to sex, drugs and other temptations. As expected, she lashes out against the woman who rapidly takes her place as the object of her father's affections, and the results are nearly disastrous.
The heavy-handed themes of forbidden love, lust, temptation and innocence come to full fruition in the second half of the film, and Miller isn't stingy with the religious imagery. Rose's first sexual experience occurs on her bed as a snake slithers underneath. Kathleen, who is explicitly referred to as a "savior" early in the movie, obviously turns into a temptress who corrupts Jack and Rose's relationship. Miller even uses a storm -- destroying Rose's tree house, an annoyingly overt symbol of her innocence -- to signal the watershed moment when Kathleen and her children interrupt the calm of Jack and Rose's lives.
In addition to her penchant for vulgar symbolism, Miller's dialogue is often hackneyed, obvious and at worst pretentious. And the inconceivable plot twists at the film's climax, involving Kathleen and her children, violently alienates the audience. A chase scene involving the snake is even unintentionally amusing, disrupting the mood of the film. Given the wonderfully reflective and atmospheric tone of the film, the amount of action Miller tries to cram into its end unnecessarily weighs it down.
Despite these gripes, there is a great deal to like about "The Ballad of Jack and Rose." Miller is a talented director, and her pacing and visuals are perpetually superb. With the help of Day-Lewis' quiet intensity and Belle's star-making turn, she creates an engrossing world populated by two complex and believable characters with wonderful chemistry. If Miller had made the central narrative of her film less busy and more convincing, "Ballad" could have been a genuinely deep and profoundly affecting film.
(Originally published in the Yale Daily News, April 15, 2005.)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richer with every viewing,
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Of course Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible. Of course the script by Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur, is inspired. Of course the visuals are lovely. But this intimate, unusual story really does take you by surprise (against all odds). It's sort of a disturbing tale, though, so it's only for you if you like upsetting little films such as The Sweet Hereafter and the like.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unappreciated and Really Good,
Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis (Best Actor, My Left Foot) gives another unappreciated performance in "The Ballad of Jack & Rose" a touching, sometimes haunting film written and directed by Rebecca Miller. The film also stars Oscar nominee Catherine Keener (Best Supporting Actor, Capote),
Beau Bridges, Jason Lee, Jena Malone, and Camilla Belle as Rose. The movie is about Jack & Rose. A father and daughter who live reclusively on a small island. Their is a housing development about to be built on the island, but Jack and Rose live their alone in a large house without a TV. In fact, Rose is pretty much shut off from the entire outside world and knows nothing except what Jack has taught her. Rose has never even traveled to the mainland, but Jack goes their often to see his girlfriend Kathleen (Keener).
When Jack is sick with what appears to be some kind of heart condition, he invites Kathleen and her two kids Rodney (Ryan McDonald, who is really good) and Thaddius (Paul Dano) to live with him and Rose. "Don't worry,"
he warns Rose. "It's only an experiment." Rose, who enjoys her solitude, is not happy with the living arrangement and as she discovers new things, like sex and such, she begins experiments of her own much to the dismay of Jack. Jason Lee co-stars as a gardener named Gray, who appears to be a ploy to give the movie an ending; Beau Bridges plays the guy building the housing developments. Now, this movie is exactly what the review on the back says "Compelling. Imaginative. Thought-Provoking". It really is a great movie in all aspects. The dialouge is very good and Day-Lewis is absolutely amazing; Newcomer Ryan McDonald plays the part of the seemingly gay Rodney, an aspiring hairdresser, really well. There are some parts of the movie that can easily be spotted as mere puppets to further the story. Like Lee's character and the character played by Jena Malone. Camilla Belle (who I've only seen in some disney channel movie) shows some great talent, simalarly to Evan Rachel Wood in "Thirteen", except Belle is playing a much more mature role. The movie's got a very interesting plot and message and it also explores realms like what would happen if you secluded your daughter on an island. I thought when the movie got incestuous, it was just a plot-twist waitint to happen; And I wasn't fond of the ending, because Miller could have taken it so many different directions. But despite these cons, this is a fantastic and touching movie. Thumbs up.
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