Craig Silvey's bestselling novel Jasper Jones has been lauded for its deft exploration of racial tensions and small town prejudices through the lens of a coming of age tale and a who-dun-it mystery. While the big screen adaptation, which Silvey co-scripted, retains much of what made the novel a hit, its loosely structured narrative doesn't translate quite as effectively on the silver screen. Set in the small mining town of Corrigan, Western Australia in 1969, Jasper Jones tells the story of bookish 13 year old, Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller). One night an Aboriginal boy by the name of Jasper Jones taps on his bedroom window asking for help. Startled by his sudden appearance but persuaded by his desperate pleading, Charlie agrees to follow Jasper into the woods to the gruesome sight of a dead young girl hanging on a tree branch. Jasper makes it clear to Charlie that he didn't kill the girl and reveals that he was in a relationship with her. The only problem is that he doesn't want to go to the police for fear that their racist attitude will see him unjustly blamed for her death. Charlie, who believes Jasper and is eager to help him, agrees to hide the body in a pond nearby and to keep their discovery a secret. Unfortunately what should have been a good set-up for a mystery film lacks one crucial element: there's no reason to suspect foul play in regards to the girl's death. When we first see Laura's body hanging from the tree, there's a more obvious conclusion to be made. Jasper instead begins to make up stories surrounding her death and centers on the idea that an old recluse, Mad Jack Lionel (played by the excellent but criminally underused Hugo Weaving), must have murdered her. Charlie believes Jasper, as there have been rumours that the old man has done bad things in the past, but there's not enough reason for the audience to suspect the old man's involvement in matters. The suspicion surrounding her death seems only to exist only in the eyes of the children and this robs the film of much of its tension, particularly towards the end of the film when the kids finally decide to confront Mad Jack. However, the confrontation still ends up being the stand out moment in the film as it results in some startling revelations about Jasper Jones as a character. It's a well-crafted dramatic scene that is only undermined by its lack of cohesion with the rest of the film. For most of its running time, the film weaves together a collection of different subplots and side stories revolving around Charlie's life, including his parent's rocky marriage and his growing feelings towards local girl Eliza (Angourie Rice). Jasper only periodically intersects with the narrative and he remains a largely passive character, disappearing for large swathes of the film at a time. When the ending sharply puts the focus back on him, it feels forced and disjointed; not allowing the revelation to hit with the devastating impact the film is clearly striving for. That's not to say that the film doesn't have its moments but overall Jasper Jones feels like an amalgamation of disparate parts that only come together under the broad hat of a coming of age story. There's a bit of everything: a touch of mystery, a pinch of comedy mixed in with a bit of family drama and racial tension. While parts of it work well, they never really come together cohesively, making the whole feel less than the sum of its parts.
Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Drama / Mystery / Thriller
JASPER JONES is a coming of age story about Charlie Bucktin, a bookish boy of 14. On the night that Jasper Jones, the town's mixed race outcast shows him the dead body of young Laura ...
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May 2, 2019