The hardest month of the year is all but over so we’re calling it here and ringing in the new with films by women or with Feminist themes. Feminist February is back! It’s something we’ve been doing for a while, and not just because of the alliteration opportunity Cupid’s month affords us.
It’s also Black History Month in the US (as Jill reminds me) so we’re trying to focus on Black filmmakers. This week we spend time with Jean and her rather caustic family members – which is more fun than it sounds. Promise.
Jean of the Joneses (2016)
Chaos ensues after the estranged patriarch of the Jones family dies on their doorstep. When the paramedic who answers their 911 call tried to win over acerbic Jean Jones, his attempts are disrupted by old conflicts that come to a boil at the funeral.
Jean (Paige) is a writer who comes from a long line of formidable Jamaican-American women. Her boyfriend Jeremiah (François Arnaud) has just told her he needs space, so Jean has moved out of their apartment and is sofa hopping until he’s ready to get back together. This means our titular character is spending time in the company of the aforementioned women in her life, whether she likes it or not.
At her grandmother’s house for a family dinner, Jean answers the door to a strange man who asks for Daphne (Michelle Hurst), then promptly drops dead on her doorstep. Jean travels with the man to the hospital and strikes up a connection with EMT Ray (the amazing Mamoudou Athie) on the way. While at the hospital, she learns that the man is a Jones, like her. After a conflab with the rest of the family, she learns he’s Gordon Jones, her estranged grandpa.
Meanwhile, having moved in with her aunt Anne (Ash) – a pot smoking nurse – Jean manages to get kicked out for being a slovenly mess (relatable). Anne has enough on her plate after a fling with a doctor and an unplanned pregnancy that she may or may not keep. Next in line to take on Jean is her mother Maureen, who’s not exactly a walk in the park herself. Mothers, am I right?!
You get the picture. Jean is passed from one family member to the next whilst fending off lectures about what she’s doing with her life, which according to them isn’t enough. Not that any of the women can really talk, as they all have their own secrets. And during the funeral held reluctantly for Gordon, a deeper seated untruth rears its ugly head – can years of hurt and one too many secrets finally derail the Jones family?
Will Jean find her own way, gain closure with Jeremiah and make room for Ray in her future? And more importantly perhaps, deal with the fallout left by Gordon Jones, the man who abandoned his family for Jamaica all those years ago.
Or did he?
I loved all the women in this movie and the cast are banging. Daphne, of course, gets all the best lines which are generally designed to knock down her daughters and granddaughter a peg or two. Which is very close to the kind of acerbic comments a lot of us grew up with, I’m positive.
Jean’s relationship with her aunt is really lovely and I live for their scenes, particularly while they’re stalking Anne’s doctor lover at her work. It’s altogether hilarious, stressful and sad at the same time.
I did enjoy this film and I think it’s because it’s so relatable. There’s a moment when Grandma laments some of the decisions she’s made in life and she talks about doing nothing – when you don’t know what to do – and I think that’s so simple and so true. It’s sad to think about regret and although we’re trained not to have them – it’s not always that easy.
I don’t think the new relationship with Ray was really necessary, no matter how wonderful Mamoudou Athie is. It felt a little tacked on and I wasn’t all that invested in it, honestly.
All in all this is an interesting lament on grief, being the family fuck-up and the consequences of keeping secrets – and not just big ones but the little micro-lies which soon add up. I think this is a slow burn which will appeal to viewers who enjoy sharp dialogue, beautifully framed shots and a gorgeous jazz soundtrack. And who doesn’t? Hmmm.
MY RATING: 3.5/5