Editor’s Note: Jack, Jules, Esther & Me is now available via iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and other on-demand platforms. For more information, visit the official site here
There’s a little moment, not far from the end of Jack, Jules, Esther & Me, where the former two titular teens silently sit together, their faces those of people who understand and appreciate each other despite a storied past. We might well recognise the moment ourselves, wherein argument gives way to acceptance and we realise the people we love are that despite their failings, despite never quite being the people we wish they were. So it is with the movie itself, which makes strides in coming to admit that its characters are not the people it wishes it could adore. Here is a coming-of-age comedy that comes to nothing more important than the admission that they—and we with them—are lesser than the decent people they might dream themselves.
He’s also, and this helps, often very funny, nailing the naturalistic flow of the language these teens adopt and never afraid to test the waters with a gag that falls on just the right side of risqué.
So much of the film’s charm is in making it seem incidental, as though the level of understanding with which it comes to regard its characters were discovered by way of coincidence rather than construction. That’s thanks, partially at least, to a somewhat unsteady opening, in which Luis—the Me of the title; we will refrain from griping it ought to be I—outlines his plan to make childhood crush Jules fall for him in this final weekend before they go their separate ways to college. Its silliness doesn’t entirely preclude its seediness, particularly not when paired with an excess of ecstatic reaction shots that—much as they might reflect a reality of teen boys drinking together—makes the movie seem terribly pleased with itself.
But it’s not, and Daniel Poliner, here making his feature debut as writer and director, has the sense to use this scenario as both ironic setup and opening acknowledgement of the growth his characters have before them. He’s a sharp writer whose dialogue has a keen ability to tell us much about the relationships of those who speak it; see Jack and Luis, whom we never need to be told have been friends for the better part of their formative years. He’s also, and this helps, often very funny, nailing the naturalistic flow of the language these teens adopt and never afraid to test the waters with a gag that falls on just the right side of risqué. The result is a crop of characters built by way of their deflective humour, endeared to us by the unaffectedness they attempt to exude.
Aaron Sauter has the hardest—and most rewarding—job as Jack, who best typifies the type of defence mechanism these kids—for they are, it’s at times easy to forget, just that—deploy to guard themselves from the burgeoning truths of adulthood.
Dialogue is only as good as the delivery it’s given, and Poliner has done well to surround himself with a foursome strong enough to lend his words the dual purpose of comedy and characterisation they carry at their sharpest. Aaron Sauter has the hardest—and most rewarding—job as Jack, who best typifies the type of defence mechanism these kids—for they are, it’s at times easy to forget, just that—deploy to guard themselves from the burgeoning truths of adulthood. Alexander Flores has a relentless charm as Luis, while Jessica Rothenberg and Alice Lee bring delicacy and determination to their respective roles. The latter, whom the plot contrives to make a newcomer amidst these old friends, is to be thanked for lending the plot the essence of its humanity.
For somewhat simply staged as it might be, her placement on the periphery of this group—together with the academic and domestic difficulties that emerge for her as a second-generation immigrant—is the conduit to Poliner’s oft-affecting invocation of the ugly uncertainty of growing up in a modern America. His film might be a coming-of-age comedy cast in a classical mold, but it’s one touched with the troubles of the time we live in. “They work so fucking hard,” Luis laments of his parents at one point. Part of the pleasure of the film is in seeing him and his friends realise that they will have to too. Jack, Jules, Esther & Me is a film whose lapping sadness seems to make its laughs all the more precious.
[notification type=”star”]68/100 ~ OKAY. Jack, Jules, Esther & Me might be a coming-of-age comedy cast in a classical mold, but it’s one touched with the troubles of the time we live in. [/notification]