Jimmy P. (2014)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on February 26, 2014 @ tonymacklin.net.

Jimmy P. is one of those movies that is elevated by its acting. An otherwise lackluster film is given impact and quality by the humanizing performances of its leading actors.

Jimmy P. - based on the nonfiction book Reality and Dream by George Devereux - is the story of an American WWII veteran who is a member of the Blackfoot tribe. Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro) is a casualty of his past.

He lives with his sister (Michelle Thrush) in Browning, Montana in 1948. He suffers excruciating headaches, sees white spots, and is haunted by nightmares. He had an accident while serving abroad, but his pain is much deeper than physical.

His sister takes Jimmy to a clinic in Topeka, Kansas, where the doctors there are baffled by his condition.

George Devereux (Mathieu Amalric), an unemployed anthropologist/psychotherapist who has worked with Indians, is beckoned from New York to assist in the treatment. George and Jimmy together go through a fitful psychological odyssey.

Although it's presented haphazardly, both men come from disrupted backgrounds and have fragmented identities.

Jimmy has gone through a damaging youth, full of wounding relationships. He has been betrayed by women, and is a betrayer of women. His guilt and alienation dominate him.

Devereux was born Gyorgy Dobo to Jewish parents in Lugos - now in Hungary. He converted to Christianity, but in the present is not religious. His psychology has evolved into one that is strongly Freudian-influenced. Sex haunts, visions abound.

Jimmy P. is a film of dreams, nightmares, clouds and rain.

The screenplay by Arnaud Desplechin, Kent Jones, and Julie Peyr is erratic. And the direction by Arnaud is sporadic. Howard Shore's music often substitutes for drama. Cinematographer Stephane Fontaine hits some dim spots with her lighting. Editor Laurence Briaud livens the slow-moving film.

Jimmy P. is more an ellipsis than an arc.

But what grounds the film is the chemistry of the main performers.

Del Toro is outstanding as Jimmy Picard. He's pensive, stolid, thoughtful, and vulnerable - a flickering beacon of frustrated perception.

Mathieu Amalric (who was the Bond villain in Quantum of Solace, 2008) brings an earnest, exuberant vitality to George Devereux. "Topeka" has never been pronounced with greater relish than it is by Amalric.

Gina McKee has a natural appeal as the married woman who visits Devereux in Topeka. She says "you lied" to Devereux about his pretending to be French. But she exudes empathy.

Jimmy P. is not fully realized and at times is a Freudian soap opera.

But at its best, Jimmy P. is a piquant look into outsiders who transcend alienation.

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