When I saw the star power of the actors in “Jayne Mansfied’s Car,” which included Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Patrick, and a host of others, I figured the movie had real potential. I guess even the strongest actors can’t save a dull script.
Directed by Billy Bob Thornton and screenplay by Thornton and Tom Epperseon, “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” muddles along trying to establish a plot, but never really gets there. Jim Caldwell (Robert Duval) is a World War I vet raising a fairly dysfunctional family in Morrison, Alabama, during 1969. Jim’s sons Skip (Thornton) and Carroll (Kevin Bacon) served in World War II, but have returned to the homestead with mental and physical scarring that has permanently damaged them. Jim’s eldest son, Jimbo
(Robert Patrick) is the only one of the boys who has not served in the military, yet he is the one that seems to endorse the old man’s military zeal the most.
Jim gets news that his ex-wife, who had remarried and was living in England, has died and that she had requested to be returned to Morrison for burial before passing. Kingsley Bedford (John Hurt), her second husband is travelling with his two grown children, Phillip (Ray Stevenson) and Camilla (Francis O’Conner) in order to attend the funeral, and the stage for a showdown between the two clans seems imminent when Jim’s daughter ask the Bedfords over for dinner.
There is an underlying military banter on the pros and cons of war throughout the movie and Jim and Kingsley, who is also a vet of the “Great War,” eventually bond. This is actually the highlight of the film and closest thing resembling a plot that the movie gets to. The rest of the film resembles a play with dull dialogue and no ending. Thornton needs to find a new vehicle other than “Jayne Mansfield’s Car.”
Reviewer’s Notes: The title “Jayne Mansfied’s Car” refers to the vehicle that Mansfield died in after a car crash in 1967 at the age of 34. During the movie, the car is on display in Morrison, and Jim’s creepy obsession with death is satisfied for a few seconds while viewing it with Bentley.
My Rating: 2 of 5 Car Wrecks.