Most helpful critical review
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A mesmerizing lead overcomes an ugly last reel
on May 28, 2011
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.