Movie Review - Mr. Jones
Karl Mueller's feature-length directorial debut, Mr. Jones, is certainly an ambitious undertaking, and I applaud the way he wholeheartedly commits to the film. But the film maker's vision is unclear, because it tries so hard to be too many different things and therefore fails at many of them. *REVISED* Initially after viewing the film, I panned the film makers for giving absolutely no credit to the reclusive artist, Pumpkinrot, whose sculptures are clearly the inspiration for the movie. I have since been informed that Pumpkinrot himself worked on the props for the film, even though I don't recall seeing his name anywhere in the credits. Maybe I missed it, but I would think he would have gotten a more prominent billing regardless. (If you aren't familiar with Pumpkinrot's work you can check it out here or view the video posted at the bottom of this review.) And while I am happy to have been mistaken as to his involvement, the film does not do his work justice. At best it seems like a wasted opportunity to make a feature length film in the same vein as Pumpkinrot's short films which are truly creepy and far more interesting. And that wasn't the only thing that was disappointing about the film.
The film begins with a young couple, Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones), on a road trip out into the countryside to a remote cabin. There, they plan to take some time to work on their relationship while Scott begins work on a nature documentary. After a few months the two encounter a reclusive artist named Mr Jones and find some of his work out in the woods. After taking time to interview others who had been in contact with the local legend and his art, the pair stumble upon his cabin where Scott finds his workshop underneath the barn behind the house. There, Scott takes something from one of the sculptures and soon afterwards, he and Penny begin to have an increasingly hard time distinguishing between their waking life and their dreams.
The acting is well-done, but I failed to ever establish any emotional connection with either of the characters. I think this has more to do with the film itself and not the performances. The use of found footage feels forced and gimmicky here, and in a year that has already offered no less than eight films of the same technique it fails to elevate the style. Really the only part of the film that works is the final act, in which the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred and the director embraces the incoherent nature of the story. Of course by this point it's too late to feel any connection with the characters as the film spirals out of control, so in the end it lacks any sort of emotional punch.
In the end, the film tries to mimic the documentary approach to found footage, but it pales in comparison to another standout from this year, The Sacrament. It flounders as it tries to stretch what is, at best, an idea for a film, into an entire movie and it fails to provide any genuine scares. And the worst part is the wasted opportunity to not only use the art of Pumpkinrot, but also his keen sensibilities for film making. I can't help but imagine the film that could have been if the had featured his talents even more, and therefore I feel let down. This is one you'll want to skip until it is available to watch for free somewhere like Netflix, where you won't feel cheated out of your money. And if you really want to be creeped out by scarecrow like sculptures in the woods laid out be a reclusive artist, then check out Pumpkinrot's channel on Youtube, there is a link below. Cheers.