Friday, 10 March 2017

Film Review: Jasper Jones

A coming-of-age dramedy set against the backdrop of Australia's gorgeous South West; it could only be Jasper Jones.

It's Christmas 1969 and Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) is a quiet bookworm living in the fictitious Western Australian town of Corrigan; next door lives his best friend Jeffrey (Kevin Long), a friendly Vietnamese boy, and up the street lives 'girl next door' Eliza Wishart (Angourie Rice). When Eliza's older sister Laura goes missing, her disappearance becomes the talk of the town and the honour of top suspect instantly jumps to local Indigenous teen Jasper Jones (Aaron L. McGrath).

Based on the novel of the same name by Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones is wholesome film of troubled youth and stolen innocence that starts out sweet before gently adding an edge of darkness; the narrative steers into territory I wasn't expecting at times, often into more unsettling areas - but that's defiantly not a criticism.

It's refreshing to see a film aimed squarely at families and a broad audience that doesn't shy away from hitting you where it hurts or confronting the tricky subjects that plague this fictional rural town - you never know, they might still be relevant nowadays. Better still, Jasper Jones does much more than just tiptoe up to the central themes before retreating; director Rachel Perkins and screenwriter Shaun Grant (along with author Silvey) handle racism, sexism, childhood and responsibility in a mature and measured manner, making for a well-rounded film that can educate audiences as well as entertain.

The acting is solid all round, even if a couple of the child actors overact the part at points. Miller puts in a great performance in the lead role, continuing the mature and not letting the forgettable nature of his starring turn in 2015's Pan hold him back. Angourie Rice is a delight as Eliza; her character is something of a Hermione to Charlie's Harry Potter, which makes for some entertaining banter. She's definately got a scowl that could wound that girl. It's another notch on her belt that now boasts a Shane Black film and soon a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Long is just a bundle of adoreableness as Charlie's cheeky best friend.

Collette and Weaving are fabulous in their roles but my pick for the best adult actor in the cast goes to Dan Wyllie as Charlie's quietly-spoken and patient father.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

Jasper Jones is like hearty soup that will warm your heart and leave you with a big dumb grin on your face. It's a simple tale told with aplomb that locals and international viewers will both enjoy and draw different ideas from. If you seek out one Australian film in 2017, you'd be an idiot to look past Jasper Jones.

Jasper Jones is in cinemas across Australia now

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