Music for Anglo Saxes
Written by Alan Bristow See more »
Psychological Drama That is Never Sure of its Theme
JIMMY P. is structurally a mess. Director Arnaud Desplechin is never quite sure what he wants the film to say: whether it comments on the status of Native Indians in postwar Amerıca; the suspicious status of much activity going under the name of psychology; life in institutions based on locking people up and asking questions later; or asking us to reflect on the fine dividing line between madness and sanity.
The plot is a straightforward one: Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro), a Native Indian veteran of World War II, suffers from terrible headaches. Confined to an institution, he comes under the care of maverick psychologist Georges Devereux (Benicio Del Toro), who nurses Picard back to health through a series of insistent questions while probing deeply into his sexual past. There is only one snag: Devereux's background is equally shady; he might or might not be a practicing psychiatrist, and he himself undergoes therapy at the end of the film.
Shot in atmospheric colorlessness, the film recreates a world where anyone differing from racial or psychological norms - as constructed by whites - is automatically identified as deviant, and hence not worth treating. It is only due to Devereux's persistence that Picard recovers at all; and even then, the psychiatrist has to browbeat the institution's director Dr. Menninger (Larry Pine) into agreement.
The actual process of recovery is perfunctorily handled; while the racial themes become lost in a convoluted subplot involving Devereux's friend Madeleine (Gina McKee), Howard Shore's musical score is unnecessarily intrusive, its syrupy fat chords directing attention away from Picard's soliloquy describing his mental state, almost as if director Desplechin was under the impression that viewers could not concentrate on words alone.
The ending is equally unsatisfactory, as we have no idea what will happen to Picard, once released from the institution. He vows to see his family, but the potential traumas presented by the workaday world after such a long time spent in confinement are simply left unexplored. In many ways JIMMY P. is something of a wasted opportunity to make a comment on discrimination and its consequences in America's past.
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