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3.9 out of 5 stars
Jolene - The Director's Cut
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2011
Format: DVD
When do you know for sure you are in love? After a failed marriage at a young age, Jolene (Chastain) deals with getting over the past and finding herself. She sets off on a journey across the country looking for what is missing in her life. This is a very, very good coming-of-age story, also kind of inspiring in a way, no matter what happens to her she never gets down and keeps pushing forward. On the other hand it is also pretty depressing to watch what this girl goes through. This movie does a great job of showing what a girl, who was raised as an orphan and spent her youth between the home and foster parents, acts like. Though it's not her first movie the woman who plays Jolene (Jessica Chastain) is fantastic in this. It's not an easy role, especially with as much sex and nudity involved (nothing gratuitous, it actually helps define the character), along with the ranges of emotion she must portray. I'm really surprised she didn't get any recognition for this. I don't want to give too much away, but I really, really enjoyed this movie. I give it an A.

Would I watch it again? - I did already.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-ray
Judging from the large volume of films Jessica Chastain has coming out in the next two years, people will inevitably want to see her early work (and in this case the film that she explodes into the movie making world with - as I had really only seen her in Stolen [Blu-ray] before). After watching the lengthy interview included on this BD and being mesmerized by her screen presence throughout this beautiful film, she is proving herself as one of the most natural and articulate ladies in the industry.

The story follows a young lady through ten years in her difficult teen and early adult life, traveling from state to state as she looks for love, expressing her amazing artistic skills, and a better life than what keeps getting thrown her way. The supporting performances around her are believable and professionally played, but Jessica was beyond captivating and managed to convey a heartfelt and solid lead performance that carried the title character perfectly.

The BD quality is clear throughout with no real falterings. Her fair skin never appears to bleed into the frame, and even in the Arizona scenes the contrasts are subtle yet still vibrant. The DTS is competently mixed and the special features include:

* Bloopers, 3:33 minutes. Not funny and could have easily been excluded and the quality is below lodef.
* Interview with Dan Ireland & Jessica Chastain, 20:54 minutes. A sit-down interview with the two of them talking film and career. The film was made four years prior to this talk and she has definitely come into her own. Worth the watch if you become a fan of hers (a dry setting in a room).
* Interview with Theresa Russel, 3:00 minutes. Only talks about her character (library setting - dull), skipper.
* Interview with Dermot Mulroney, 4:21 minutes. Funny and informative about indy film making (outdoor panoramic forest setting - beautiful).
* Interview with Michael Vartan, 6:04 minutes. Having watched his whole set here one should be a huge fan of his to sit through it.
* Director commentary, scene specific. He obviously loves this project and dearly loves his star, and I suppose fans of his The Whole Wide World and Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont will like some of the insights he gives about making those films also.

No region coding listed, English language and subtitles only. Four stars for the film and one more for the BD specs and supplements. A worthy owner but at least worth a rental watch to say you saw where it all really started for her...nicely done.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2011
Format: DVD
I have very mixed but intense feelings about "Jolene." On the one hand, it features a magnetic lead performance by Jessica Chastain. I've never seen her before, so I can't say for sure whether she's a fantastic actor or just one of those people who outshine everyone around them (I suspect both), but either way, I'll see anything else that she's in. But the film itself, which cruises along for 3/4 of the way with a fairly light tone (considering the subject matter), takes a very unpleasant turn towards the end that left me feeling duped. I don't have a problem with movies that are dark or depressing, but there has to be an authenticity to it. This one seemed senselessly cruel, not in the way life can be, but in a way that sets the viewer up for one experience and then swaps in a horrifying, unjustified alternative. The heroine makes a decision that seems to makes no sense and completely invalidates everything she has gone through to that point, leading to terrible consequences. I haven't read the Doctorow story it's based on, but if it provides an explanation for this decision, it gets lost in translation (some vague voice-over rationalization is attempted but fails to convince). I'm left with a very bitter taste that diminishes the enjoyment I had experienced up until that point.

Even so, this film is worth watching for Chastain's performance. She's going to be huge.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
JOLENE is an adaptation of one of EL Doctorow's short stories from his collection `Sweet Land Stories'. That story was one of the few forgettable ones in that collection and makes one wonder why it was singled out for a screenplay by Dennis Yares. Doctorow is one of America's most important writers (Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, Loon Lake, The Water Works, The March, City of God, etc) and this is surely not one of his finest moments. Made in 2008, it did give Jessica Chastain an opportunity for exposure (as in "total'!) so perhaps that is why it is making the rounds again - before Oscars....

Jolene is a 15 year old girl, at story's beginning, who knows nothing about her parents and who marries a geek boy (Zeb Newman) whose own parents are mysteriously dead and lives with relatives who are odd - the aunt (Theresa Russell) is angry with the world and uncle (Dermot Mulroney) is a pedophile: Jolene ruins her first relationship by having an affair at age 16 with the uncle , her `husband' commits suicide, and she ends up a juvenile delinquent in a `home' for wayward girls. There she is courted by staff member Cindy (Frances Farmer) who helps her new young lover escape. Jolene runs away to hit the road hitchhiking (selling favors along the way), and ends up in a desert drive-in where she meets and marries a tattoo artists Coco (Rupert Friend) who is a drug dealer on the side and Jolene steps out of another bad relationship. Making her way across the country she stops in to work as a stripper and is noticed by a rich man (Chaz Palminteri) from Las Vegas who shows Jolene wealth and love but is murdered by a rival gang from New York. Once again she hits the road to end up in Tulsa, OK where she is courted by a sicko right wing evangelistic wealthy boy (Michael Vartan) who marries her despite his wealthy parents concerns, gets her pregnant, then throws Jolene's past in her face, claiming their newborn child as his own - Jolene being a used and unfit mother. In desperation Jolene moves to Hollywood where she follows her one talent - art - and dreams of becoming a movie star.

Dan Ireland directs this bit of treacle and an outstanding cast makes the best of the script they're given. Chastain shows evidence of the superb acting skills that now yearly are becoming more apparent. But as a movie, JOLENE Is a contrived little mess - and it makes us wonder how the powerful EL Doctorow could be so diluted. Grady Harp, February 13
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2013
Format: DVD
This film is based on a short story by E.L. Doctorow and I can't claim familiarity with it, although I'd be curious to read it now. The only real reason to watch this film is for the lead, Jessica Chastain. She's gorgeous to look at, but that wouldn't sustain a film. What she has is the ability to look like she's not acting. Her presence comes across genuine no matter how peculiar the situations and characters around here are (and they ARE peculiar). That's the problem with the film. Specifically, the people around the lead come across as fictional, unbelievable characters, while Jolene, thanks to Chastain is sympathetic and somewhat more plausible. Pause the film anywhere and look at her expression, it'll be spot-on. True, it's a stretch even with her to believe, given the traumatic circumstances she's lived through - foster homes with sexual abuse, people of both genders preying on her or otherwise taking advantage seemingly at every turn - that Jolene would remain so sweet and oddly naive. At the end of the film, she's just 25 but has lived enough lifetimes for a couple people. You'd think she'd look a little more spent.

Theresa Russell has a small part early in the film, which brought to mind one of her earlier starring roles as the femme fatale in Black Widow (recommended!), where she constantly reinvented herself, dramatically changing up her look and persona to snare new men. Jolene does something similar, although it's the inverse; she complacently changes herself to suit whatever man of the moment has entered her life with the promise of a better life, love, a meal ticket, etc.

Jolene may not look spent by film's end, but you might. The end is unsatisfying and doesn't offer enough resolution to justify all the viewer has been through with this character.

EDIT 12/1/13 Well I made a point to track down the short story of the same name, Jolene: A Life. It's in Sweet Land Stories. I checked it out of the local library. Reading it did not clarify anything for me. In fact, the story is quite spare and I didn't feel I gained any more insight from it. And there you have it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2012
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Jessica Chastain is brilliant as Jolene! If you liked her in The Help then you will adore her in this movie! Chastain is a powerhouse, she is a fearless actress...there's nothing she can't do! Jolene is a young woman who's been used and abused her whole life. This movie spans a decade of Jolene's journey to self-discovery and the people she meets along the way. Jolene encounters many men who exploit her and make her feel horrible about herself. It's funny how in life, we make the same mistakes over and over again and never really learn from them. This movie is so real that it is hard to watch sometimes, but Jolene is a movie that I will definitely never forget. I highly recommend it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This, the Director's Cut is the better version, as you actually learn what happens to Jolene in the end, by the opening scene that does not appear in the original version I saw.

Jessica Chastain gives one of her best performances, even considering her Oscar (what should have been winning) performance in "Zero Dark Thirty".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Wow, I got this at the same time as above. This movie is the 1st movie my stepdaughter was in. She has been in many since. This was also the only place I could find it. We decided to collect all her movies and I do to this day. I bet her daddy is up in heaven so proud of her.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 9, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I love this movie. When I first saw this movie, I knew that Jessica Chastain was going to be a star. Not only that, I knew that she would win an Oscar someday. Fast forward to 2013 and her on the red carpet, nominated for "Zero Dark Thirty". She will win someday because she knows something that most actress never find out. She is fearless. In the span of the length of "Jolene", she grabbed every taboo that actresses face by the throat and strangled the bejesus out of it.

I don't really know why "Jolene - The Director's Cut" was released, but it isn't as good. There are many many cuts, most of them sexual and there are many scenes that are different. Ultimately though, "Jolene" is about the power of a woman and the strength of a woman, sexuality and all. So cutting these scenes made the movie less of what it originally was.

Bottom line, "the director's cut" is too much of a cut and the original is a better film.

Jessica Chastain tackles this character of "Jolene" and showed what probably was an Oscar-worthy performance before anybody knew who she was. The movie is about innocence and sex. No matter how much we want to deny it, it is what drives us, many times in the wrong direction. For some, it drives us in the wrong direction over and over. It is the nature of the beast and what we see from Jolene is the development of her inner-strength and maturity after a lifetime of taking the harsh road.

You want to see an actress bury herself in a role, check out the ORIGINAL CUT of "Jolene". Jessica Chastain went from a virtual unknown to an Oscar nominee and you can see why in this 120 minute movie from 2008.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2014
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Oh boy. Where to start. First, I think Jessica Chastain is absolutely fabulous in all her roles and she is truly a wonderful lady.

I try to not read too much about a movie before I watch it which ensures few preconceived notions and I have to follow the scenes carefully and allow myself the surprises. And this has plenty.

You can read the Jolene movie synopsis in other reviews. I'm just going to go into a praise Jessica mode here and encourage you to buy and watch her movies and catch her on stage if you can. It is pretty rare to find a true redheaded actress starring in movies. This woman makes it work for her. She can play a likeable, unlikeable, gorgeous or plain role. She is believable in her roles.

This is an early role for Ms. Chastain and she is able to pivot from one promising situation to a lousy situation and to yet another and another. It is an interesting story but truly must have been challenging to inhale it and spew it forth in so thoroughly a believable manner.

Yep. This one made me cry a bit too. But she is fantastic in her role and the other more seasoned actors are certainly worth watching. Even when you don't like what their character does to hers.

Go ahead. Take a chance on it. It is very reasonably priced. Watch it more than once. Watch the extras on the DVD. Support this woman's career. Thanks.
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