Dir/scr: Rebecca Miller. US. 2005. 111mins.
An extremely emaciated Daniel Day-Lewis sets the tonefor Rebecca Miller's eerie family drama The Ballad Of Jack And Rose as aman who rails against the inhumane consumerist world while encroaching cancerforces him to push his teenage daughter into modern society.
He's seething with anger and has nothing to lose, soall rules of decorum fly out of the window, just as they do with thestorytelling.
Building off its Sundance premiere, IFC Films willrelease the film in late March: unlike Miller's previous Sundance efforts, PersonalVelocity and Angela, it can count on no awards platform from whichto launch since it played out of competition.
Then again, arthouse audiences should be easily luredby the spectre of Day-Lewis giving his whole body over in the lead, with aperformance full of rage and creepy fatherly devotion that will not disappoint.
Audiences outside the US will care less about the lackof awards, but will also be less captivated by the focus on suburbanism as aninherent evil.
Jack (Day-Lewis) and his wispy daughter Rose (Belle),live a secluded life on a failed commune off the coast of New England, growingtheir own food and generating their own electricity. Rose's mother and theother commune residents left long ago along with the hippy era but Jackpersisted, keeping Rose ensconced with him.
Rose seems closer to eight than 14 as she iscompletely emotionally dependent on her father and spends her days pickingflowers and playing in a tree house. All along he has brainwashed her about theevils of modern society - particularly the suburban development underconstruction at the edge of their property - a programme that she is completelywith.
But Jack is sick and Rose knows that her Heidi-likeplay world will soon end, so her father invites his girlfriend (Keener) to movein with her two grown sons.
The older boy (McDonald) is shy and nice, if a littlegeeky, while the other (Dano) has emotional problems of his own. Meanwhile Rosecontinues to behave in typical teen fashion, yet because she is no typicalteenager she knows no normal boundaries. Whereas her father may have imaginedher like a protected princess, she is in reality akin to a feral child who hasno idea how to act in civilised society.
Miller, Day-Lewis' real-life wife, draws the most shecan from her eclectic leading man, who gnashes his teeth and suffers mightilythroughout.
But she fails to make the most of the story, whichflounders as soon Day-Lewis invites the world into his make-believe world. Fromthis point on Rose's behaviour is too odd and the father's response too tepidto make any emotional sense.
Belle delivers a pixie-like performance, while Kenneris underused in a secondary role and her screen sons suffer underdevelopedroles with the focus so persistently on Rose.
Ellen Kuras' photography fills the screen with thebucolic rolling fields of New England that hide the ugly emotions roilingbeneath the surface.
Prod cos: Elevation Film Works, IFCProds, Initial Ent Group
US dist: IFC Films
Int'l Sales: IEG
Exec prods: Caroline Kaplan, Graham King, Jonathan Sehring
Prods: Lemore Syvan
Cine: Ellen Kuras
Prod des: Mark Ricker
Ed: Sabine Hoffman
Mus: Michael Rohatyn
Main cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Catherine Keener, CamillaBelle, Paul Dana, Beau Bridges