Director: Felix Thompson
Cast: Charlie Plummer, Danny Flaherty, Erin Davie and Cory Nichols
Running Time: 81 minutes
Release Date: February 26th
Any person who spent their teenage years as an outsider will agree that music played a big part in their life. An escape from loneliness, it is an awful cliché, but an awfully true one too. Whenever you hear an adult reminiscing on their awkward adolescent period, often the memories of aimlessly messing about with other weirdos and a good soundtrack are almost inextricably entwined. You rarely get one without the other, and in the case of the coming-of-age genre in fiction, you almost cannot succeed if you choose to pry the pair apart.
From Dazed and Confused to Norwegian Wood, it is hard to deny that the best explorations youth culture are strengthened by a distinct musical backdrop. It triggers nostalgia, and without nostalgia you lose a vital element to the overall experience. This is the first fatal flaw of King Jack, which starts out promising enough, but falls flat as its generic plot and subpar Brian Eno ambient soundtrack offer the viewer little in the way of either style, or substance.
The feature-length debut of Felix Thompson, this is the story of a rebellious, and self-absorbed teenager named Jack, who whiles his hours away in the American suburbs by smoking, drinking, and getting beaten up by a set of older bullies. Relatable to every teenage boy who spent too long chasing down the wrong girl at school, he is sole glimmer of hope in a rather weak story. Like a deleted character from Harmony Korine’s Kids script, his sole ambition is to have sex, and lots of it, the only downside being that his badass attitude is compromised by both virginity, and his never having kissed a girl (besides this one, but you wouldn’t know her, so don’t ask).
However, his antics are compromised when his aunt falls ill, and Cousin Ben has to move into the house temporarily. A sweet, but miserable ten year old, Ben is more plot device than character, as his sole function really is to make Jack less of a selfish git, while Jack makes a very half-assed effort at exposing the kid to rebellion. With a relationship that develops at the same rate as a third world country, the tale of Jack and Ben is nothing much to report on, and chances are, you will have seen this story a dozen times before. There is the awkward introduction, the gradual thaw, the definitive moment of fun followed by the conflict, and, I won’t spoil anything after that, but you really do get the gist of how basic the story is.
King Jack is not a poor film. It is simply too safe and I think we can all agree that safety in a teen drama is about as appealing as the insertion of a John Wayne Gacy subplot. Forgettable ninety per cent of the time, the few scenes, which deserve to be remembered, are shot in the foot ten times over by the staid tinkling piano muzak that dulls the senses until you zone out, and pray the credits come as soon as possible. Imagine What Richard Did without the plot, or Spike Jonze’s The Suburbs without Arcade Fire, or the ambitious subtext, and you essentially have King Jack.
Bored kids listening to bland music, driven by a predictable plot is not something to fork money out on. Just buy a copy of any Richard Linklater film instead, and thank me later.