A double win for Sarah Elizabeth Mintz’s debut at Tribeca also honours Rain Spencer’s breakout performance in the title role
Dir/scr: Sarah Elizabeth Mintz. US. 2022. 117 mins.
Good Girl Jane makes some bad girl choices in writer/director Sarah Elizabeth Mintz’s autobiographical debut feature. Anchored by a breakout performance from Rain Spencer, it follows a lonely teenager heading off the rails as she seeks solace from the cruelties of her world. The intimate staging and convincing performances elevate the familiar material into something less sensationalistic and more soulful. Further festival appearances should follow a Tribeca World Premiere where Good Girl Jane won Best US Narrative Feature and Best Performance for Spencer, currently appearing in Amazon series The Summer I Turned Pretty.
A slightly overlong, sometimes gruelling film - but it pays off
Expanded from her 2017 short of the same name, Mintz’s debut is a combination of coming-of-age drama and transgressive romance framed through the experience of addiction. In the fall of 2005, Jane (Spencer) slinks into class, awkward and trying not to call attention to herself. There is talk of an incident at a previous school and the need to start over. Mintz quickly signals Jane’s sense of isolation. Her drab clothes and hoodie suggest someone craving anonymity. There is a wall of noise soundtrack conveying the chatter and hubbub of school life that surrounds her but also excludes her. Subject to constant, online bullying, she is friendless and feels she can’t even rely on the support of her sister and fellow schoolmate Izzie (Eloisa Huggins)
Home life is little better as she indulges absent, unreliable father Elliott (Gale Harold) who never makes good on his promises of ’together time’ visits. She is unforgiving of an older mother who has little patience for her. Andie MacDowell may not have much screen time but there is a tetchy, aggressive quality to her performance that establishes the mother as a hectoring, self-centred figure who considers Jane something of an inconvenience.
It is hardly surprising that Jane looks elsewhere for a sense of family and emotional connection. She finds it with a group of drug taking, reckless outsiders and especially older drug dealer Jamie, played by Irish actor Patrick Gibson, a Screen Star Of Tomorrow in 2017. All cheekbones and singlets, the wiry Gibson proves a charismatic presence with an underlying sense of menace as he charms and seduces the naive Jane. She has soon progressed from smoking weed to crystal meth, stealing money and back-seat sex as she falls under his intoxicating spell. “She’s a big girl. I think she can handle it,” purrs Jamie.
Mintz favours handheld camerawork throughout, pulling us into the whispered confidences, shared highs and intimate moments that bind Jane to Jamie. There is something of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey in the film’s manner and pacing. We experience everything from Jane’s perspective. Who knows what Jamie is doing when he is not with her or what her mother’s daily life is like? The immersive approach creates a slightly overlong, sometimes gruelling film but it pays off it in the way it builds such a close identification with Jane, especially when she starts to become overwhelmed.
Rain Spencer confidently navigates the emotional changes in Jane. The Jane we first see is a sulky teenager , smouldering with resentment and despair. She seems to blossom in the early stages of her relationship with Jamie; growing in confidence and emerging from her shell. She teases and challenges, pulling her weight in the shifting power dynamic between them. As things change, Spencer retains a sense of the naive good girl venturing way out of her depth. It is a performance that should earn her attention and opportunities.
Production company: Astute Films
International sales: WME. email@example.com
Cinematography: Jake Saner
Production design: Tom Castronovo
Editing: Harrison Atkins
Music: Kent Sparling
Main cast: Rain Spencer, Patrick Gibson, Andie MacDowell, Odessa A’zim