Eye For Film >> Movies >> Understanding Jane (1998) Film Review
Hot off the back of the monumental success of Four Weddings And A Funeral, Understanding Jane was a quickly produced romantic comedy starring up-and- coming stars (such as Kevin McKidd from Trainspotting). Both the words 'romantic' and 'comedy' are used loosely in this review.
The script from Jim Mummery (his only writing credit) aims to report the romantic adventure between two girls and two boys, set against a gritty English city backdrop. The boys answer a personal ad that two unemployed and fun loving girls have made and from here the plot meanders through emotional and sexual conflict, successfully managing to avoid making any kind of comment on modern society.
Mummery tries to gain his humour from aggressive dialogue, the relationship between the two men and the naughtiness of the two women. The dialogue is delivered naturally by the actors, but this does not make it humorous in the slightest. Furthermore, the male bonding in the film is not what any viewer would call a friendship. Mummery tries to borrow from Men Behaving Badly, presenting the two as louts who drink, smoke, swear and play pool, but fails to achieve any of the same kind of chemistry captured by the BBC comedy. Director Caleb Lindsay tries in vain to create something out of nothing by speeding up clips and creating montages of the two blokes bonding. His attempts only cheapen already empty scenes.
The lead actress Dallas (or Jane) is played seductively by Amelia Curtis. However, looks and screen presence do nothing to improve her excruciatingly irritating character development. She has the attitude of a spoilt brat which is at war with her presentation as being poverty stricken; we never find out where her distaste for life and everyone in it comes from and thus she becomes a shallow and unlovable character. In this sense, she fits in perfectly with the characters in this film.
The film-making technique of Lindsay is cheap and cheerful, although shamelessly tacky at times (such as the dressing room scenes). The guerilla approach could been successful in the same way as it was in the cult classic Swingers should it have been supported by a razor-sharp, insightful script. It is not.
The characters are irritating, their activities felonious and not as cute as the writer and director think they are - so Understanding Jane is difficult to get through. There are some moments of amusement, the dull and lifeless sex scenes realistically empty and therefore worrisomely familiar, but they add no depth to this shallow, highly forgettable film. I never did understand Jane, but then again, I never cared.Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2005