Review: Jamie Marks Is Dead (Smith, 2014) – Sundance 2014
Two of my least favorite films from Sundance this year I watched because my husband is drawn to movies based on novels or short stories. Our friend backed him up saying, “At least it’ll have a good plot.” I guess his observation still stands, which maybe indicates how little I value plot in a movie.
Jamie Marks Is Dead is based on Christopher Barzak‘s novel One for Sorrow. During the Q&A session, someone asked director Carter Smith why he had changed the title. Smith responded that he had cut some parts and as a result the original title no longer fitted, so he had to change it. I haven’t read the novel, so I can’t say whether the cut pieces were essential, but what remained in the film didn’t ring true emotionally. I had read somewhere that One for Sorrow is considered “young adult” fiction, though the Amazon description doesn’t seem to indicate that. Whatever the true categorization, the movie does have a “young adult” feel to it, where dramatic events happen for the sake of the drama, the characters spout trite observations as if they were wisdom, and viewers are jerked from one stereotype of teenage life to another.
The whispered words didn’t make any sense to me (if you watch the movie, you’ll see what I mean). Neither did the relationships between the characters. Even accepting these relationships at face value, they held no richness, no insight. The most I can say for the film is that it kept my attention–maybe not a trivial compliment considering how sleep-deprived we were. Performances by Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, Morgan Saylor, and Liv Tyler were competent but not remarkable.
Note: I embarrassingly thought that the actor who played Jamie Marks was Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame. Same glasses in the movie! It was only during the Q&A session that I realized the Jamie Marks actor didn’t have a British accent. Sorry, Noah Silver!