"Jack and Diane” features Riley Keough (the granddaughter of Elvis Presley) and Juno Temple as an exceedingly butch-femme pair of teens in love, but the real stars of the film are blood, urine, vomit and poop, some of which actually turn up on screen while the others are at least the subject of lengthy conversations. There hasn’t been a movie this obsessed with bodily fluids since “Salo.”
There are also werewolves, a tattoo-covered Kylie Minogue, animated sequences (by the Brothers Quay) involving strands of hair unfurling over slimy organs, and endless reprises of “Only You” by Yazoo (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).
What the hell does any of this mean? Not as much, I suspect, as writer-director Bradley Rust Gray (“The Exploding Girl”) thinks. But then, any movie that’s this exasperatingly vague and seemingly aimless is bound to have its defenders. For me, “Jack and Diane” felt like someone misinterpreting the most extreme bits of Gregg Araki and Harmony Korine and turning it into an unwatchable film made marketable by putting its leading ladies into lesbian situations.
Diane (Temple) is about to leave New York to go to France for some kind of fashion fellowship, despite the fact that she has the ugliest set of outfits seen onscreen outside of a John Waters movie. She randomly runs into skateboarder Jack (Keough), and they commence staring at each other a lot, engaging in a series of semi-intelligible conversations and occasionally making out.
Jack visits a tattoo parlor run by Tara (Minogue), and they too engage in foreplay before Tara completely disappears from the film. (Keough and Minogue aren’t the only ones with connections to the music world; Temple’s father Julien Temple directed the legendary Sex Pistols documentary “The Great Rock & Roll Swindle” as well as the dazzling ’80s mods-versus-rockers-meet-MGM extravaganza “Absolute Beginners.”)
Diane pukes, has nosebleeds, and loses a tooth. Jack scabs up her face after she’s hit by a taxi. Both characters are subjected to embarrassing masturbation scenes. There are far too many conversations about needing to find a bathroom (with specific reasons cited). Pubic hair gets shaved. And there are werewolves, although they might be metaphorical.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with including any of this stuff in your movie if it seems like it’s building to something, but since “Jack and Diane” has no cumulative power, all of these random moments resemble the work of some undergrad student shocking her professor to cover up a lack of ideas.
Temple remains firmly in her ditzy-trashy-sexpot wheelhouse, but Keough (who turned up briefly in this summer’s “Magic Mike”) does at least provide a certain imposing screen presence. (Even though the Elvis look has its adherents among a subset of butch lesbians, Keough’s androgynous appearance here reminded me more of the late Brad Renfro.) Minogue mainly comes off as stunt-cast; the pop superstar makes much more of an impact in “Holy Motors,” currently in limited release.
Some critics may find meaning in this mess, and more power to them. For most, I suspect, “Jack and Diane” will merely be a literal bloody disaster.