There are films where you find yourself watching them thinking to yourself "I'm watching a star be born." Such is the case with writer/director Sarah Elizabeth Mintz's Tribeca-winning Good Girl Jane, a riveting drama about a lonely teen whose home life has downward spiraled after her parents' divorce and whose school life seems to exist somewhere between being bullied and basically non-existing. The teen in question is Jane, whose initial moment on screen practically explodes with a volatile mixture of vulnerability and stark edginess. It's in this moment that relative newcomer Rain Spencer announces herself as a cinematic face to be watched and from this moment forward you simply can't keep your eyes off her.
Achingly desperate for human connection and finding none in the places where it ought to happen, Jane's immersion into isolation is interrupted when she stumbles into the path of a group of raucous misfits who toss her a line.
Quite literally, it would seem.
Introduced into a world of pain-free acceptance and camaraderie, Jane surrenders herself to this carefree world and practically falls into the arms of 21-year-old Jamie (Patrick Gibson), a low-key and charming drug dealer who seems to hold sway over this little group and whose behaviors become increasingly erratic the more addiction takes hold for him and for everyone around him. Increasingly consumed by this intoxicating relationship that seems to offer her everything she was looking for, Jane's health eventually begins to suffer even as her home life erodes.
Somewhat predictably, catastrophe strikes and Jane is forced to choose between Jamie and actual survival.
Good Girl Jane is inspired by true events. It's the first feature from Sarah Elizabeth Mintz and based upon her own short film. Good Girl Jane had its world premiere just this week at Tribeca Film Festival where it picked up the Best U.S. Narrative Feature prize and the Best Performance - U.S. Narrative Feature prize for Spencer.
Rest assured, these will not be the last prizes for Good Girl Jane.
Spencer gives a remarkable performance as Jane, a downwar spiraling ball of transparent vulnerability, fierce determination, and passionate surrender. Jane makes a myriad of bad choices along the way, but to Spencer's credit we absolutely never stop being drawn to her. She's essentially a good kid making challenging choices but doing the best she can with the cards she's been given. Spencer makes us love Jane even when it seems like no one else around her can.
Good Girl Jane is gifted with the presence of Andie MacDowell as Jane's mother, who can't quite seem to realize that she's not reaching her daughter and, in fact, others actually are. It's devastating to watch the obvious disconnection and watching how it transforms over the course of the film. There's a scene toward the end of the film that is nothing short of gut-level intensity.
The rest of the ensemble is strong including Patrick Gibson's hypnotic turn as someone who initially seems to be not much more than a low-key amateur meth dealer but whose character arc twists and turns over the course of the film. Eloisa Huggins also shines as Izzie along with Jessi Case as Chloe and Odessa A'Zion as Bailey among others.
At nearly two hours, Good Girl Jane could possibly benefit from a little tightening but in all honesty I'm not sure what I'd cut as it's all so beautifully connected in what is a strong, breakthrough directorial effort for Mintz. Jake Saner's lensing is stark and intimate, jarring and occasionally downright intrusive. Original music by Kent Sparling gives the film an additional layer of emotional resonance and an unforgettable rhythm.
Good Girl Jane announces the presence of Rain Spencer in a way that should have Hollywood knocking on her door. A fierce, honest, and unforgettable performance that brings to life this equally fierce, honest, and unforgettable film.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic