If Crazy Heart and August Rush had a torrid night of passion and produced a love child, it would be Janie Jones, the story of fading alcoholic rock star Ethan Brand (Alessandro Nivola) and his relationship with his teenage daughter Janie (Abigail Breslin). Writer/director David M. Rosenthal blends a musical setting with road-trip-movie elements, and paints a somewhat-realistic depiction of what the rock & roll lifestyle is really like -- dirty motels, crappy food, and dingy clubs -- which adds layers to the subtle dynamic between Janie and Ethan. Still, the film loves its clichés, and despite the fact that Rosenthal seems to be going for a subtle realism, he falls short of creating the necessary emotional impact that would certainly help elevate Janie Jones from predictable to engaging.
Ethan is on the comeback trail when he discovers he has a daughter named Janie Jones as a result of a brief affair with a hopelessly drug-addicted ex-groupie (Elisabeth Shue) -- the thing is, he doesn't even remember her. When Janie's mother suddenly leaves for rehab and leaves Janie alone at one of Ethan's rock shows, he's forced to take her on tour with him and the band. With no feel for fatherhood, Ethan continues his hard-living rocker lifestyle, giving Janie a crash course in the not-so-glamorous life on the road. However, after Ethan's self-destructive behavior drives the band away, he's left alone with her. Desperate to finish the tour and revive his career, Ethan stays on the road as a solo act with Janie in tow, while her surprising musical talents help guide him down the road to redemption.
Abigail Breslin gives a charismatic performance as an independent teen doing her best to deal with her change in circumstances, and Alessandro Nivola is equally impressive as a hard-drinking singer lost in self-despair. The two are not only successful as musicians -- they perform their own songs in the film -- but they are able to develop Janie and Ethan's relationship and express the emotional needs of their characters, despite the formulaic road-trip storyline. In addition to their work, the film boasts equally satisfying supporting turns from Frank Whaley and Brittany Snow, while Peter Stormare gives a standout performance as Ethan's manager and only friend.
Janie Jones isn't exactly a trailblazer in this particular genre, and yet the film is a sporadically moving character drama that boasts a pleasing ambience and a warmhearted connection between Breslin and Nivola's characters.