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You know those indie flicks that make you want to cringe? The ones where from the opening frame, you get the feeling the cast is only doing this because they owed a really, REALLY big favor to the director, the producers or somebody else connected with the production? In spite of some interesting editing choices made in the opening sequence of JAM, that's exactly what it feels like. Which is the bad news.
So what's the GOOD news?
Well, if favors were called in for this one, THANK GOD THEY WERE, because I couldn't believe the parade of actors as they were introduced. Marianne-Jean Baptiste? William Forsythe? Gina Torres? Alex Rocco? Tess Harper? Jeffrey Dean Morgan??? I had to ask myself in-between double takes: "Who IS this Craig Serling guy?"
Well, he's damned lucky, for one thing. Though it was made and released in 2006, it has the retro-look and feel of a movie made on the cheap back in the mid-'70's...which might have been the feel that Serling was going for.
On a rural road on the outskirts of Los Angeles (at least that's where I guessed it was), a cellist (Baptiste) on her way to a concert date swerves to avoid hitting a stray dog. She gets rear-ended by a guy (Forsythe) and his son, a telephone pole gets knocked over...let's just say it's the mess that starts the whole movie. Over time, we get to meet the people who inhabit the cars stuck in this jam: a bride-to-be with her two best friends and bridesmaids; a divorced dad (Morgan) spending his visitation day with his kids; a lesbian couple (one of whom is played by Torres) who are expecting their baby to come along at any moment, and a pair of ne'er-do-well crooks in a stolen RV, trying to break into a stolen ATM machine. And let's not leave out the cool elderly couple (Rocco and Harper) taking it all in stride.
The script is strictly paint-by-numbers, with conflicts and clashes that feel contrived - especially since with this kind of movie, you just KNOW that everything will somehow work out in the end. But compensating somewhat for what the script lacks, is the pleasure of watching some very talented actors 'spin gold from straw' and make it look effortless. Forsythe and Morgan shine especially as two struggling fathers in similar yet different situations...trying to deal with circumstances they can do nothing to change, while trying to stay connected to the people who mean the most to them.
Yes, this is all very 'Lifetime' movie-style stuff, and there's really nothing here to offer any kind of a challenge. It certainly isn't NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which Harper is really good in, or even LADY IN WHITE, which features one of Rocco's best performances. But it's an inoffensive time-waster at the very least, good for vegging out to until the next great movie comes on another channel you can turn to.
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