There is something uniquely Southern cinema about Billy Bob Thornton's Jayne Mansfield's Car. Like a slow humid summer day, it cautiously and decidedly comes over you with a passionate precision. Thornton wrote, directed and stars in the film that lands in theaters and VOD and is a 1960s-set family drama that mixes Vietnam War divisiveness with a flair that makes the movie feel timeless.
Thornton, Kevin Bacon and Robert Patrick star as the sons of Robert Duvall's patriarch, and at this moment in time, it isn't just Bacon's war protesting that is challenging this family. With word that their mother has died and is coming back from her English home where she left Duvall to marry a Brit (John Hurt), things will be getting much more tense when her British family heads to the Southern U.S. She wants to be buried beside her kin and that gives us the backdrop for Thornton's multi-layer tale.
As anyone who saw Sling Blade and All the Pretty Horses can attest to, Thornton is a filmmaker who is loose with his actors. He lets them fully inhabit their scenes and milk every ounce of juice from their character. As such, some may find certain scenes slow to develop, but those are audience members who prefer the MTV method of quick cutting that has become the norm in filmmaking today. Witnessing the other end of the spectrum, like in Jayne Mansfield's Car, honestly produces a much fuller movie experience.
And with the stellar cast Thornton has to work with -- shown off in the Jayne Mansfield's Car trailer -- it is pure bliss. All three "brothers" are so spot on, one would think Patrick, Thornton and Bacon were related. Then there is the joy of the scenes with acting legends Duvall and Hurt going at it. It is such a pleasure to watch two legends wielding their talent that cuts through the Southern-soaked drama with heart, humor and humanity that is so rarely seen onscreen nowadays.
Then again, our Jayne Mansfield's Car review finds that the film itself is something of a unique rare treasure. Thornton has crafted a work that may slowly simmer until its conclusion, but just like the arrival of dusk on those smoldering Southern days, its refreshing end is all the more rewarding because that slow moving and heated journey was taken.