The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 25, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Daniel Day-Lewis does his damnedest to turn his wife Rebecca Miller's The Ballad of Jack & Rose into something profound, but it ends up being about as unfocused as the hippie movement from which its plot takes inspiration. Miller's tale of a father and daughter living alone on a defunct commune, fighting to keep its ideals alive in their world, alternates between aimless and heavy-handed. Most troubling is the character of Rose, played with discomfiting catatonia by Camilla Belle. Granted, it's clear she's been stunted by her removal from the formal education system and her too-intimate relationship with her dying father. But Rose lashes out against everyone within her immediate radius in a way that seriously disregards motivation. The characters who enter her sphere -- a mother with a savior complex (Catherine Keener), her polar opposite sons from different fathers, and a wannabe hippie child appropriately named Red Berry (Jena Malone) -- seem there merely to challenge Rose's various curiosities and anxieties about the outside world. The events that transpire between them feel inorganic, like hot-button stimuli intended to test the reactions of lab rats -- a fact Day-Lewis concedes when he calls it an "experiment." It's Miller's point that the ideals of the '60s are not alive and well in this newly incarnated community, something she drives home with several versions of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You." There's nothing voluntary about this activism; it's rote, robotic, and trancelike. That stance would seem a little more meaningful if contrasted with some real hippie love, maybe a flashback to the days when the commune was a living and relevant entity. Instead, the house has a funereal feel throughout, making the film one long dirge for days gone by.