TIFF Movie Review – Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012)

Jayne Mansfield’s Car, 2012. 

Directed by Billy Bob Thornton. 

Starring Kevin Bacon, Robert DuvallShawnee SmithRay StevensonRobert PatrickJohn Hurt Billy Bob Thornton, Katherine LaNasaTippi Hedren and Frances O’Connor. 


During the 1960s three generations of fathers and sons come to terms with family resentments and secrets in the American South.

A dysfunctional Southern American family features a cranky and emotionally unavailable patriarch (Robert Duvall) who makes a habit of visiting fatal car accidents, three sons who range from being a hippie (Kevin Bacon) to a man-child (Billy Bob Thornton) to a chauvinistic businessman (Robert Patrick), and a former beauty queen (Katherine LaNasa) as a daughter.   A further disruption results from a phone call that the mother has died and that her second husband (John Hurt) will be coming from England with his son (Ray Stevenson) and daughter (Francis O’Connor) to have her buried in the country she left many years ago.

Needless to say, there is clash of cultures and sexual interludes among the hosts and the visitors.  The most fascinating element would have been to focus more on the relationship between Robert Duvall and John Hurt as the two men are able to rise above the bad blood to become friends.  Duvall is in cruise control playing a grump old man whose only display of affection is unleashed by an accidental LSD trip.  John Hurt makes the most of his part though he does go over-the-top with his angst against his son in being a prisoner of war.  Ray Stevenson puts together a quiet performance which only stretches credibility with the argument he has with Hurt.  Billy Bob Thornton channels a milder version of the character which brought him international recognition from Sling Blade (1996).  Robert Patrick portrays a younger version Duvall which at times is cartoonish.  Kevin Bacon is the most believable of the threesome.  The female roles are not well defined outside for allowing some sex to enter into the cinematic equation.

Automobile accidents seem to be part of the theme which is addressed when John Hurt suggests that everyone experiences a crash of some sort.  Jayne Mansfield’s car makes a brief cameo appearance though its significance is elusive.  The assembling of montages is jarring and the ending leaves the impression it was added on to complete a neglected storyline.  Hopefully, the filmmakers will come to realize that the second last scene is where the real conclusion is to be found as it utilizes the right amount of drama and humour.  Jayne Mansfield’s Car is not a total wreck but it certainly seems to be running on empty.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★  / Movie ★ ★ 

Trevor Hogg 

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