The Ballad of Jack and Rose

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  • A rough first draft?
    The film starts out very promising, an idyllic and relaxing flow through nature and natural housing that is habited by one ex-commune member Jack and his daugther Rose, alone in a world left with all the time to work and play and look at clouds in the sky. Unfortunately, Jack is having heart difficulties, and worried by Rose's promise to die with him, he invites his girlfriend's family over to take care of them. Too bad his experiment in raising a completely innocent girl made her too innocent, because now the arriving family is a threat to everyone's sanity.

    There's quite a lot going on in this film as far as characters are concerned. Jack, the person always trying to control everything around him so that it can all live harmoniously together, has much more going on with his character than he realizes. Rose is blindly in love with her father, even incestuously. Kathleen, Jack's girlfriend, is a "normal person", but she carries a severe savior complex. Her two sons suffer from being an overweight, maybe gay hair stylist and a demented, forceful counter-culturist. Every character in the film is painted distinctly and forceably, creating drama and character development that goes into depths that it almost doesn't even have to.

    In fact, this movie plays a lot like a first draft. The characters and story are realized well enough, but the writer/director Rebecca Miller never really takes them out of her head enough for anyone else to really share their experiences with them. The story itself follows a certain arch, with all the necessary continuances of beginning, middle, end, climax and endouement, character development and motivation, but by the end of the film it's quite clear that Miller doesn't actually know what the story is.

    There would be a lot of symbolism, mostly Americana. The fact of the matter is that every character quite easily represents a side of America, an aspect that each holds dear and maintains even when falling into conflict with another aspect. Yet the overall thesis of the work is entirely lost. It was starting to grasp its message at the end, but then lost it in the epilogue. This is a story about a bunch of characters. That do stuff.

    Whatever the movie did have in terms of storytelling, however, was lost completely in the direction. While the photography was pretty good and definitely gave enough lovely imagery to look at, the camera itself never seemed to be put in the right place. Ninety percent of this movie is in close-up, for no other reason than that it seems Miller didn't figure there was anything else to focus on. Editing and action is cut fast and frantically in an effort to hide the fact that the shot itself isn't really that important. In all reasonableness, this work doesn't want to be a movie.

    What it does have, and what is basically the only thing one can fall back on, is superb performances. Being that the characters are instrumental and that the performers are very good, the overall grace of the drama is what sustains one's attention enough to sometimes even forget that they're watching something not completely developed yet. In the end, this is a performance piece, not a film, and makes a good rough draft to a work that may someday be fully developed.

    (...)...more info
  • A Graceful if Sad Nod to the Past
    Rebecca Miller has written and directed another fine film that probes the consequences of the passage of time and life, finding incongruities in ideals and realities impacting everyday people. The result is a film of tenderness and dashed hopes and unconditional love between a father and daughter.

    Jack Slavin (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a Scottish immigrant who mentally still lives in the 1960s, full of adoration of nature and the idealistic expectations of the Hippies reacting against a country at war with Vietnam. He and his daughter Rose (Camilla Belle) now (in 1986) live in a deserted hippie commune on an island off the East Coast of the USA. Their relationship is idyllic, living off the land, at one with nature. Jack has heart failure and worries about the fate of his isolated Rose almost as much as he loathes the inevitable encroachment of land developers such as Marty Rance (Beau Bridges) who is building houses on the precious wetlands on the opposite side of Jack's island.

    Jack seeks to solve (control) problems: he invites his girlfriend Kathleen (Catherine Keener) and her two sons Rodney (Ryan McDonald) and Thaddius (Paul Dano) to enlarge his family at the old commune, and he confronts Marty with threats that he will destroy the development project. Once the extended family is formed, Rose views Jack having sex with Kathleen, decides she must 'grow up' and attempts to enter womanhood by unsuccessfully seducing Rodney and ultimately losing her virginity to Thaddius, an event she makes public by hanging her stained banner sheet on the windswept clothesline. Jack reacts in rage then anguish at his failure to provide a secure, healthy future for Rose, and in time gives in to the developers and draws Rose back to him in a final scene that is one of the most touching farewells on film.

    Daniel Day-Lewis is so completely immersed in his character that he never for a moment loses our compassion. The entire cast is excellent, the pacing of this sensitive script is extraordinary, and the entire production crew (cinematography, music, editing, etc) shares the sense of commitment to Miller's direction. This is a genuinely touching film completely without the saccharine tones that could have overtaken the story. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, August 05...more info
  • Wonderful story
    I'm not here to write a mini-novel about the film. I thought it was great though. I loved the concept, the characters, the cinematography and the story. A beautiful tale about a remarkable duo, who draw from each other - strength, love and bravery. I loved it and I highly recommend it, although not really for those right-of-center....more info
  • The tragic abyss between the utopist dreams and the real world!

    The first accords of "I put a spell on you" by Credence Clearwater revival works out as smart introduction for this peculiar chamber work.

    An irreverent exponent of the beatnik generation, who was born in Scotland and came to USA in the early seventies, searching for a dream. He lives in the East coast, trying to reproduce his birthplace. According smart ellipsis, we realize he belonged to the hippie generation, intending to harmonize the environmental equilibrium and preserving the best he can, to isolate from the madding crowd; he does not have TV and he refuses to establish further relations with the outer world. On the other hand his emotional life has bee a total failure. His wife left them a long time ago; so under this sorrowful perspectives, he lives with her daughter intending to mold her according his idiosyncratic life's style. He dislikes the homogeneity of the urban architecture and specially in that island and is a well convinced the world goes to the final disintegration, due is in absolute decadence.

    He has a mistress who lives out of town; so when he begs his lover to live with them, this woman - who has two teenagers - agrees but, very soon the unthinkable consequences of this terrible decision will reach a boiling point of unpredictable situations.

    Rebecca Miller's pulsating and minimalist direction reminded me to Lars von Triers in "Breaking the waves". Additionally, the presence of this extraordinary actor - Daniel Day Lewis - as well as a well supporting cast have conformed one of the most intense, mature and haunting films of this decade.

    A poignant film that demands all your attention.
    ...more info
  • Slow Moving and Idiosyncratic Father-Daughter Portrayal Among the Hippie Culture
    Master filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu made one of his great masterworks about the unearthly devotion between a father and a daughter with 1949's "Late Spring". Director-screenwriter Rebecca Miller has a similar idea in mind here, as she has fashioned a story set in 1986 around the same inextricable bond between a 1960's drop-out Jack and his teenage daughter Rose on an isolated island. She has an intriguing idea for the film's theme, the disillusionment of the idealism borne out of the 1960's anti-war movement and the encroachment of capitalism upon a former commune's idyllic setting.

    However, whereas Ozu uses narrative ellipses to let the story flow and lets the viewer respond emotionally, Miller does not reflect such an instinctive manner and has piled on soap opera conventions, heavy symbolism, a dominating soundtrack (lots of Bob Dylan) and lethargic pacing to add weight to her well-intentioned but significantly flawed 2005 movie. That's unfortunate since we expect more from a film starring the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis (Miller's husband) as Jack and Catherine Keener as his sometime hippie-earth mother girlfriend, Kathleen. Looking appropriately gaunt for a dying man, Day-Lewis infuses his trademark feral passion into the role and comes up with some genuinely incisive moments, though Miller gives him little more the liberal hermit archetype to play. Keener does not fare much better as her role is even more stereotypical than his, especially as Miller's contrived story turns make her acts more incomprehensible as the story trudges on. Oddly, she plays a comic variation on a very similar role in this year's "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and is wonderful in that.

    Camilla Belle is a lovely presence as Rose, and she does some strong work with the coming-of-age aspects of her character. Where the script fails her is in showing the motivation for her often extreme acts of hostility and manipulation to keep Rose's relationship with Jack isolated from the others. As a result, she comes across as petulant and childish rather than the puritanical soul Miller would like us to think she is. There are several performances in smaller roles worth mentioning - Ryan McDonald keenly aware as Kathleen's overweight, acerbic son, Rodney, who wants to be a hairdresser; Beau Bridges as the conciliatory land developer, Marty Rance; a surprisingly sensitive Jason Lee as a thoughtful gardener who bonds with Rose over their mutual love of flowers; and in the film's best performance, an almost unrecognizable Jena Malone as Rodney's wild-child friend, Red Berry.

    Occasionally there are scenes that surprise with their originality like the final encounter between Jack and Marty. However, more often, there are several scenes that ring false, in particular, the back-projected home movies during the kids' recreation of a 1960's love-in party. The film's sluggish pace suddenly picks up toward the end when a series of events wrap up the loose ends of the story in too pat a manner including a totally unnecessary epilogue. Ellen Kuras's cinematography is almost too prettified given her predilection for impressionistic set-up shots. Miller shows signs of her father Arthur Miller's gravitas in her story, but she needs to work on maintaining interest in her film as the plot unfolds. Truth be told, I fell asleep twice before I could see the movie to the end. There are no extras with the DVD other than a few trailers for this and other independent films in release....more info
  • It's A Shame...
    I am a huge fan of Daniel Day-Lewis and I think he is the most talented actor I have ever scene. Part of his intelligence comes from picking movies that he wants to do rather than going for the easy money. He doesn't work that often and I have read stories about directors and other actors basically begging him to be in a film. With that said I think he made a mistake by being in this movie. This is his wife's movie and I heard that he didn't want to be in it until he finally broke down and agreed. Bad choice. This is a boring movie with a twisted plot. It's basically about a father and a daughter who are in love with each other. Pretty sick stuff if you ask me. Not only that, but this movie is BORING! It looks nice and is filmed beautifully, but the acting isn't that great. Even Mr. Day-Lewis looked like he didn't really know what to do with his role. There was a few interesting things about this movie... the two brothers that come to live with Jack and Rose are awesome. Other than that I can't really think of any reason to like this film. I give it one star because I can't give it zero....more info
  • Great Film
    This film disappeared locally right after its theatrical debut, so when IFC showed it recently, we rushed to catch up with it. Having admired its director, Rebecca Miller in all her films, we were right in seeing it in the wide screen of the main theater because that seems to be the perfect way to watch this intimate picture.

    Ms. Miller takes us to an island off the coast of the continental mainland to set her story. As the film opens we watch Jack Flavin with his teen age daughter as they are perched on the roof of their strange cabin with the roof being made of lawn grass. They are father and daughter who have stayed in the land where years ago, had been a commune. We don't know what happened to Rose's mother, and nothing is clarified. We gather Jack and Rose have a special bond that at times border in incest.

    Jack believes in keeping the island the way it is; development is coming fast and furious in the way of luxury homes being built in what probably will be a gated community where people of the same background and financial means will live, in sharp contrast as the commune idea that attracted Jack to the place. Jack, having inherited money from his father is financially secure, but still lives in a primitive way in a basic type of life. We see Jack as he takes pills; we realize he is not a well man.

    When Jack takes a side trip to the mainland, he visits Kathleen, a single mother with two teen aged sons. Jack convinces her to come to live with him at the island. What Jack doesn't count is on Rose's reaction to the invasion to her space. In fact, the hatred for the invaders is instant. Katheleen, a kind woman herself, tries to reach Rose without any success. Rodney, one of the sons, has a weight problem, and has studied to be a hairdresser. Thaddius, is the rebel, who has an eye on the beautiful Rose.

    Jack's basic intention for bringing Kathleen is to help him during his last days because he senses his days are numbered. When Thaddius suffers an accident, Kathleen takes the opportunity to go back home, leaving Jack and Rose to fend for themselves.

    Ms. Miller takes an elegiac look at the situation making Jack into an almost Shakespearean character, that is, bigger than life. Jack is lovingly photographed in his many moods. The beautiful Rose's face shows all the emotions going on inside her. The director ought to be congratulated for involving us in the film and making us care for what will happen to Jack and Rose.

    Daniel Day-Lewis is an actor who doesn't work much these days and that is our loss! As Jack, Mr. Day-Lewis has the rare opportunity to show his vulnerability and seems to be naked in front of our eyes because he doesn't hide the emotions from us. We know at any given moment what this man is thinking and what makes him tick. Mr. Day-Lewis gives a fabulous performance as he dominates the picture completely.

    Camilla Belle is Rose. This young actress proves he is up to the task the director demands of her character. Not only is she beautiful, but she clearly exudes an innate intelligence that pays off in her portrayal of the girl who sees her world fall apart and has no way to stop what is killing her father.

    Catherine Keener makes a valuable contribution to the film as Kathleen. She clearly is a gentle soul who is in love with Jack and wants to stay with him until the end. That is not meant to be because Jack realizes that in "importing" her to the island she gets in the way of the perfect balance between father and daughter.

    Ryan McDonald makes the confused Rodney come alive. This young actor is a natural. The rest of the cast include minor appearances by Beau Bridges, Jason Lee, Jena Malone and Paul Dano, who plays Thaddius the other son.

    "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is clearly not for a wide audience because it's too intelligent to get a broader distribution, but the fans of Rebecca Miller will always cherish this film for what she brought to it and for the magnificent performances she got from her cast. The film is beautifully photographed Ellen Kuras and has an interesting score by Michael Rohatyn....more info
  • I didn't like it
    I think movies are an aquired taste...some good movies go unnoticed simply because they dont have huge stars in them and who knows...maybe this was one of them.

    Suffice to say I did not enjoy this...It was too slow for my taste but it wasn't bad at all. The acting was good and the plot was fine as well. I'm giving it 4 stars because it was a good drama.

    I just didn't like it...more info
  • Too film-schooly for me
    I had high hopes for this movie, but it was just too dull and uninteresting to make an impact. I found the loud pop music to be intrusive and unnecessary for the "plot development" (such as it was). I also found myself longing for the lead female character to find a pair of tweezers and another facial expression besides "dazed" before the film ended, but she never did.

    There are only two reasons you may want to see this film, and that's why I gave it two stars: Daniel Day-Lewis gives a great performance, and the cinematography is actually quite good. Other than that ... blah.

    ...more info
  • ruined by its own precocity
    Set in 1986, Ballad tells the tale of an ailing wealthy counterculture environmentalist (Jack) and his teenage daughter (Rose) living on an abandoned commune. Years ago it was prospering but all the members have left, including jack's wife, and only Jack and Rose remained. They spend their days in quiet contentment, gardening, farming --and launching two-men guerrilla attacks on a housing development on the other side of the island.

    Living in near isolation, jack and rose develop an incredibly close bond, one that threatens to become incestuous. Terrified of this development, Jack asks his secret mainland girlfriend and her two teenage sons to live with them. The new 'guests' are an unwelcome development to Rose's life. She's incredibly possessive of her father and in retaliation for this intrusion, she tries to seduce the two boys and kill Kathleen (the girlfriend). jack is at wit's end eventually, things cannot go on as they were nor can they continue to coexist in the new situation. He has two choices neither of which are idyll.

    This is where the movie goes awry. The movie keeps everything to a very natural level, no overwrought music, and overreactions. This works for most of the movie yet these events are too alarming for the characters to ignore. After Rose tries to shoot Kathleen, all the characters choose to ignore Rose's unhealthy jealousy. They blame her behavior as the result of being isolated from society for too long. But the character came off more like a petulant child instead of a wild child. As her acts became increasingly dangerous, the more I wanted someone to finally tell her enough is enough. The character of Jack is equally unlikable. He chooses to ignore his daughter's unhealthy attachment and when he does fully accept it, he continues to encourage it. This may be a fully organic development of the characters and their relationship, but that doesn't mean it's entertaining. Despite the controversial relationship, the movie vacillates between smug and boring.

    The performances are good, my favorite are those of Paul Dano, Ryan MacDonald, and Catherine Keener as the girlfriend and her two sons, there's a naturalness to their acting that is oddly lacking in the depictions of Jack and Rose. Perhaps that is intentional. Jack and Rose are not as much real people as they are idealized environmentalist versions of a fairytale king and his daughter, living in grand isolation until the advent of the evil stepmother, Kathleen. Only in this case the stepmother isn't evil and the new family is more entertaining then the main characters.

    There is an extraneous subplot with Beau bridges as a housing developer that serves as metaphorical commentary on Jack and Rose's reltionship, but like the rest of the movie it's too smug to be meaningful. ...more info
  • Good acting but sad and depressing coming of age story
    Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Jack, this recent Indie film is very ambitious. It's set in 1986 in a former commune off the coast of New England. Once there were 60 people living there, with hippie hopes and dreams. But that was sixteen years before. Now there are just two people left - Jack and his 16-year old daughter, Rose, played by Camilla Belle. This father-daughter combo live their lonely lives in the midst of natural beauty and no modern conveniences. There's a deep bond between them. But Jack is ill. He has a heart condition and not long to live. We can see it from his skeletal shape and the cave-in look of his features.

    Out of concern for his daughter, he invites a local woman named Kathleen with whom he has been having an affair, to come live with him. He even pays her money to do this. She moves in with her two teenage sons. One is a chubby and gay. The other has a sense of feral evil about him. They are shocked by the lack of modern conveniences but Kathleen is determined to make it work.

    What follows is a sad and somewhat warped look at the coming of age sexuality of Rose and an inevitable crisis that brings all the twisted emotions to the surface. More than anything this film is a mood piece. And the mood is one of despair, longing and unhappiness.

    Daniel Day-Lewis is an exceptionally talented actor and his is wonderful in this role as are all the other actors. The cinematography is good too. It's just the script that is too long and too weird. I guess it got its point across though. I left the theater thoroughly depressed. See this at your own risk but I can't recommend it.
    ...more info
  • Dysfunctional Father-Daughter Relationship.
    I was expecting to be moved a great deal by this indie film about the dysfunctional relationship between an ex-hippie single dad and his possessive teenage daughter, but dued to it's complex characters and story, I was somewhat disappointed and bored while viewing this film. I certainly didn't find myself feeling sympathetic towards Rose(Camilla Belle) who was possessive, selfish, and rebellious. She's just spoiled rotten by too much love from Jack(Daniel Day-Lewis).

    Jack, who is terminally ill lives on the New England Coast with her 16 year old daughter who hasn't had much interaction with people since she was withdrew from school at the age of 10. One day, he decided to invite his girlfriend Kathleen(Katherine Keener) and her two boys to live with him and Rose. The move in upsets Rose a great deal, and she's very jealous and worry that her father's love for her would diminish now that there's another woman in the house. Gradually, Rose becomes friends with Rodney(Ryan McDonald) whom she wanted to explore with sexually, but ultimately gets rejected, and he ended up giving her a tomboy haircut that shocked Jack and Kathleen. However, she soon lose her virginity to Rodney's unlikeable brother Thaddius(Paul Dano) who was rather promiscuous. That even upset Jack futhermore, and he threatens to punish Thaddius for his behaviours. Rose continues to be disturbing towards Kathleen in hoping that it would turn her away. Then Jack is obligated to choose between keeping her daughter and the love of his life....

    I understand that there hasn't been anyone involved in Jack and Rose's life for many years, that all of a sudden their relationship becomes volatile when the loving and kind Kathleen steps into the picture, and things start to go wrong in many ways, but their relationship was too intense and unhealthy even that was the ultimate problem to begin with.

    Even with great performances from Daniel Day-Lewis, Camilla Belle, and Katherine Keener, this overly ambitious family drama/coming of age movie is just too hard to digest. The recent Dear Frankie was far more entertaining and touching than this film. You have to be a huge fan of one of the three leads to appreciate this film better. As for me, I enjoyed Katherine Keener's performance and role the most despite not having as much screentime as she deserved. ...more info
  • The worst movie in years
    Too bad you can't give this clunker 0 stars. While the acting was fair to mid-ling the plot was nowhere to be found. It is a waste of time.......more info
  • Slice of Life - well done
    Small independent films either grab you or they don't. I liked this film because Daniel Day Lewis creates a character who isn't perfect but realizes the consequences of his choices on his daughter. Some may think there is incest involved, but I feel that because Jack and Rose live in an isolated environment they become very close. Jack realizes that Rose needs to learn to socialize with others, especially since he has a heart condition. Rose does not like the change of bringing other people into their lives. The actors convey their emotions and we know what they are feeling. This is a character study and may not be to everyone's taste. But I found the characters interesting and the acting stellar....more info
  • Receipe for boredom.
    For this dish one needs:

    - a father/daughter relationship that is so close that it is a bit hard to believe
    - a Katherine Keener character that is underdeveloped
    - three teaspoons of amazing handheld cinematography
    - a handful of Bob Dylan songs

    The preparation is simple: Take the father/daughter relationship and mix it in a large mixing bowl to a sweet paste, maybe a bit too sweet. Slowly let the Katherine Keener character drift into the relationship while the ideals of the father are crumbling. Make sure that the daughter doesn't bond with the other ingredients and starts rebelling with motivations that are seemingly out of touch with the rest of the world. Take the bowl and place it into an oven preheated to 550 degrees and let the top of the bowl burn to a melodramatic crisp. Don't forget to, in the end, sprinkle a pinch of teenage angst on top before serving the credits. Bon appetit! ...more info
  • Prospero and Miranda in New England . . .
    This story has enough strong characters, situations, and conflicts for a satisfying well-written novel, even a Shakespeare play, but there's a bit more here than can be resolved easily in a 112-minute film. Which is not to say this indie effort doesn't deserve watching. There's much here to be absorbed by.

    Daniel Day-Lewis, as always, brings intensity and depth to a conflicted character, not always easy to like. The remaining true believer of an idealistic 1970s commune, Jack is the father of a devoted adolescent daughter, Rose, the two of them like Prospero and Miranda on a New England offshore island. Deeply in love with her father, Rose is determined to deny his failing health and reacts with barely suppressed rage when he brings a girlfriend and her two teenage sons to live on the island with them.

    With all the components here for domestic conflict - in a house without TV - writer/director Miller has more than enough material. But while dysfunctional complexities multiply, a housing developer is putting up big colonial-style houses in a nearby wetlands and a gentle young man working for a florist on the mainland also figures into the story. Like a good book, you may want to take a break from this film and come back for the rest of it later, but it's definitely worth watching to the end....more info
  • Liberal dream meets harsh reality.....
    Daniel Day-Lewis never disappoints. THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE, his best film in a while, is the tale of a liberal dream grown old. And, as he has done with all his other characters, Day-Lewis becomes his role. At one point, I said to my husband. "Daniel looks terrible." "Well, he is pretty sick" said my husband. Jack's illness (heart disease) has caused his body to waste away, so Day-Lewis does not display the physique seen in previous films, but rather appears as a wizened and wiry middle-aged man on his last legs- perhaps a somewhat older version of Christie Brown sans the disability and wheel chair.

    Rose is a beautiful young girl, Jack's daughter, protected from the harsh realities of the outside world until a developer threatens their blissful existence on an island in the Atlantic off the coast of Canada, and Jack's girlfriend and her ne'er do well drug addict son move in, ostensibly to take care of Jack. Has Jack given Rose everything she needs to survive in this "real" world? Only time will tell. The ending of their story is bittersweet but closes on a hopeful note. Another DVD recommended for home purchase for tolerant folks who care about the demise of everything holy. ...more info
  • 'Jack and Rose' has mood, but falls flat
    Heavy on atmosphere as well as heavy-handed symbolism, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is an absorbing but strangely unconvincing new film by Rebecca Miller. Worst of all, it lacks a coherent narrative and strong dialogue as well, enough to sink a lesser work. To its credit, "Ballad" borrows the isolated atmosphere of Jane Campion's beautiful "The Piano." Yet Miller (the daughter of the late playwright Arthur Miller) fails to capture that film's warm humanity and believability, instead falling for a series of cliched and absurdly conceived plot twists.

    At its best, "Ballad" is gorgeously and sensitively filmed by acclaimed cinematographer Ellen Kuras. The film's setting, an island off the coast of New England, lends itself to continual shots of surprising beauty. Miller expertly creates evocative moments out of graceful and fluid visuals, unanticipated but effective editing choices and a masterful use of music (Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Nina Simone among others). But Miller's obvious plot overpowers these mesmerizing attributes about half an hour into the film.

    The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, the brilliant method actor -- and Miller's husband -- who acts here in only his second film in eight years. He plays Jack Slavin, an ex-hippie who's the only remaining member of a commune founded in the '60s. Jack, whose wife long ago abandoned him, lives in isolation with his young daughter Rose (the promising Camilla Belle), with no connection to the outside world besides occasional visits to the mainland.

    Jack is a difficult character -- at once hypocritical and elitist (he insults and threatens real estate developers) -- and Day-Lewis nails him in all his complexities with effortless skill. Jack's health issues (he suffered a heart attack several years earlier) provide a constantly ominous threat that complicates their life together.

    It is apparent early in the film that Rose's relationship with her father is unusual, if not outright disturbed. Rose, who was taken out of school at 11 and barely has had any human contact since then (not even television), latches onto her father with both filial and apparently sexual love. Her near-incestuous obsession leads her to repeatedly declare her intention to commit suicide when he dies, a promise that captures the film's dire moroseness. To Belle's credit, she is largely convincing in this ever-difficult role, though she occasionally exaggerates in the more emotionally fraught scenes.

    On the other hand, Catherine Keener -- who plays Jack's lover Kathleen -- is outright melodramatic, detracting painfully from the film. "Ballad" takes a terrible turn when she moves into Jack's home, along with her teenage sons, in order to take care of the increasingly sick man. Kathleen's boys provide Rose with her first contact with people her own age, introducing her to sex, drugs and other temptations. As expected, she lashes out against the woman who rapidly takes her place as the object of her father's affections, and the results are nearly disastrous.

    The heavy-handed themes of forbidden love, lust, temptation and innocence come to full fruition in the second half of the film, and Miller isn't stingy with the religious imagery. Rose's first sexual experience occurs on her bed as a snake slithers underneath. Kathleen, who is explicitly referred to as a "savior" early in the movie, obviously turns into a temptress who corrupts Jack and Rose's relationship. Miller even uses a storm -- destroying Rose's tree house, an annoyingly overt symbol of her innocence -- to signal the watershed moment when Kathleen and her children interrupt the calm of Jack and Rose's lives.

    In addition to her penchant for vulgar symbolism, Miller's dialogue is often hackneyed, obvious and at worst pretentious. And the inconceivable plot twists at the film's climax, involving Kathleen and her children, violently alienates the audience. A chase scene involving the snake is even unintentionally amusing, disrupting the mood of the film. Given the wonderfully reflective and atmospheric tone of the film, the amount of action Miller tries to cram into its end unnecessarily weighs it down.

    Despite these gripes, there is a great deal to like about "The Ballad of Jack and Rose." Miller is a talented director, and her pacing and visuals are perpetually superb. With the help of Day-Lewis' quiet intensity and Belle's star-making turn, she creates an engrossing world populated by two complex and believable characters with wonderful chemistry. If Miller had made the central narrative of her film less busy and more convincing, "Ballad" could have been a genuinely deep and profoundly affecting film.

    (Originally published in the Yale Daily News, April 15, 2005.)...more info
  • good cast in pretentious nonsense
    Quite possibly the worst film of 2005, Rebecca Miller's THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE is an obnxious & overly determined bore. Jack (Daniel Day-Lewis, the director's husband) is the last member of a '60s commune living on some potentially valuable island property off the East Coast in the mid-'80s. The land surrounding Jack's commune is the target of a developer (Beau Bridges) with whom Jack has an adversarial relationship.

    Jack's daughter Rose (talented newcomer Camilla Belle) who appears to be about 15, lives with her father, does not go to school, apparently has no friends, and not the faintest understanding of the emotional and physiological changes she's going through.

    We're meant to sympathize with Jack (who is dying of a heart condition) as the last of a dying breed, but in fact he is monstrous. Jack and Rose's delicate and much too sexually tinged relationship is disrupted by the arrival of Jack's girlfriend (Catherine Keener) and her two teenage sons - one gay, the other a budding sociopath. Keener's character realizes Rose is in trouble but Jack seems oblivious.

    The real villain of the piece is of course capitalism itself. Jack cant stand against the forces of development by himself but ironically has no hesitation about using his inherited wealth to manipulate people. Day-Lewis burrows in as usual and makes the best of it, but some of these scenes (particularly the Jack-Rose stuff) are just unplayable.

    A film filled with rank hypocrisy and some unfortunate ideas about child rearing, THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE is a disappointment on every level. ...more info
  • "You're innocent, and innocent people get hurt"
    Those familiar with Rebecca Miller's previous film Personal Velocity, an insightful triptych of three very different young women, will know that she's a director who's on the cutting edge of American independent filmmaking. But with her latest venture The Ballad of Jack and Rose; she seems to have really outdone herself. This astonishingly beautiful and perceptive tale presents, with an astounding veracity, themes of familiaral love, the loss of innocence, and the ultimate costs of idealism in a world where such ideals are no longer relevant or not even particularly welcome.

    Boasting some of the best performances of the year, The Ballad of Jack and Rose opens with Jack (a fantastic Daniel Day Lewis) and 16-year-old Rose (Camilla Belle) sharing a tender and intimate embrace while lying on a Garden of Eden-like bed of grass. As they stare up at the wild blue yonder, one gets the sense that they're a complete, contained, and totally contented couple. It's not immediately clear how they are related to each other, but we soon learn that they are a chaste father and daughter. However, the ambiguity of their severely intense relationship quickly becomes unsettling.

    It's 1986 and Jack and Rose are living on a remote East Coast island, the only holdovers from a utopian cooperative. Their world is self-sufficient, autonomous, and claustrophobic. They spend their days living off the land, and hiding out in a wooden, rambling shack that is nestled upon a windswept hilltop and over-grown with grass and wildflowers. Jack is originally Scottish, an old hippie, who came to America in the mid-60's carrying with him the hopes and dreams for a country that he thought America would become. An engineer by profession, over the years he has instilled in Rose a fierce intelligence, but also a wariness and distrust of the outside world.

    Jack is dying of a bad heart, and he's angry about the world he cannot put in order; he also feels helpless about the beloved daughter who will soon be parentless. Rose feels as though she can't live without him, so when she tells him" When you die, I'm going to die" you know that she means it. Their problems are compounded when a slick land developer (Beau Bridges), who has begun building a lavish, modern subdivision, deliberately endangers the wetlands flanking the edge of Jack's property.

    In an effort to get some domestic help and also to introduce Rose to the wider world, Jack invites Kathleen (Catherine Keener), his casual girlfriend from the mainland, and her two sons Thaddius and Rodney (Ryan McDonald and Paul Dano) to move in and assist with the household. But Rose, having been sheltered from influences other than her father, is not pleased to share her world with anyone new.

    Rose is gradually becoming a woman, and she doesn't know how to be appropriate around new people. She's particularly upset that Kathleen is sharing her father's bed and dividing his attention. In an effort to get back at her father, she begins to solicit the attentions of Kathleen's boys, and sets in motion a series of events that forces Jack to confront the disorder and disappointment of his life.

    Daniel Day Lewis brings total emotional heft to this role, vividly bringing to life the character's whole host of contradictions; it really is a tour-de-force of acting. His portrayal of a disappointed, bitter, but highly intelligent counter-culture type is fiercely earnest and totally empowering. Jack is a man of principle who is caught between his old world beliefs and a world that has long ago left him behind.

    Jack is the epitome of a control freak who realizes, too late, that the depth of his devotion may well have poisoned his daughter. Camilla Belle brings to Rose a ferocious sense of the competitive; she's possessive, and potent, a seemingly innocent yet very willful seductress. She lashes out at her father and at Kathleen in a sequence of chaos-inducing maneuvers that can only bring heartbreak to the small collective.

    The Ballad of Jack and Rose is a marvelously shaded mood piece that is probably more about issues and characters than it is about story. Miller has a languid, floaty, and wondering directorial style that lends itself well to this type of subject. Rhythmic and dreamy, both Day-Lewis and Belle respond to it all as if gasping in harmony. The film works on numerous levels - it's a statement about environmentalism, it's also a homage to a bygone world, but its mostly an intensely engaging and satisfying drama about a man who has been sidelined by the realities of life, and who could never live up to the ideas inside his head. Mike Leonard April 05.
    ...more info
  • What a strange little movie
    If your wife bought it a year or two ago and you've both been avoiding watching it since then and she doesn't know why she bought it at all and refuses to remember doing so and you're looking at that name and being really turned off by ballads and a possible Titanic reference, just quit procrastinating and pop it into your DVD player. It's not as bad as all that.

    If you haven't bought it, I wouldn't rush out to the store or the Amazon shopping cart for it, but if you have it, go ahead and watch it. It's strange, you'll laugh in spots, and Daniel Day-Lewis is still Daniel Day-Lewis. You might find it hard to care about any of the characters, but oh well. It's not a bad movie, really, and it's probably different than what you've been watching anyway.
    ...more info
  • Excellent. Daniel-Day Lewis is amazing
    Wishing to be free from the contemporary world, Jack and his teenaged daughter Rose live virtually self-sufficiently and alone on a small island off the East Coast.

    However, all is not well in his utopia lately, as his health is failing rapidly and housing developments are beginning to encroach on his borders. It is now that he is realizing that being cloistered away may not be in the best interests of everyone, triggered by Rose's frighteningly sincere revelation to kill herself when he dies and the inappropriate feelings he is beginning to feel for her. His decision to enlist the help of his mainland squeeze and her two sons to come and stay on the island to "help out" does not go over well with Rose and she certainly does little to hide that fact. As this shaky "experiment" progresses, it leads to both tragic and life-changing events to all those involved.

    This is all handled exquistely by the players here, in particular Daniel-Day Lewis. It's a shame he doesn't work more often, because virtually every role he's been in is Oscar-worthy and this is no exception. You can just feel his pain (both mentally and physically) and concern for the well-being of Rose with his expressions as evidenced in his breakdown at Marty Rance's house. Great stuff and a great movie.
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  • The birth of a true Belle
    The main reason to enjoy this film is to watch young actress Camilla Belle completely milk the screen for all it's worth, chewing up every line and making veteran actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Catherine Keener look like amateurs.

    That said the story here revolves around Jack (Lewis) and his daughter Rose (Belle). Jack has kept Rose isolated from the outside world for sixteen years, but as his health takes a drastic fall he feels she may need a woman in her life, someone to take care of her after his death. That woman is Jack's secret girlfriend Kathleen (Keener), someone he kept completely hidden from Rose until the day she and her two teenage boys move in with them. Her boys are very different than anything Rose was used to.

    The film mostly focuses on Rose's rebellion against her father and his newfound family and the effects it has on everyone around them. Rose begins to explore her sexuality in an attempt to punish her father for choosing another woman over her and as the final frames roll in we are brought to see the darker side of attachment. The film is loved and hated by many, but the one thing we can't escape is the birth of a young starlet....more info
  • Too bad...not much here
    This was a disappointing movie. It started very slowly, unfolded very slowly, and gave not much result. I could not develop any empathy for the characters.

    The father, played by Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis, was rather depressing (because he is dying, I suppose he is entitled to feel that way), and the daughter, Camilla Belle, was quite disturbed, and most of her actions were unbelievable.

    The whole bit about the secret girlfriend and her family moving in on a moments notice was odd, and I did not feel any chemistry between the two lovers.

    Some brief incestuous undertones, allusions to one of the boys being gay, the promiscuity by a couple of teens seemed a bit out of place. I can't imagine the beautiful girl wanting sex (even out of spite) with either of the available young males.

    Too slow, with weird characters. Written and directed by DD Lewis' wife, and made pretty cheaply, which explains some of it....more info
  • One of the best!!
    This has got to be one of the best movies I've seen! Great plot, and great characters!

    What do you do when all you've known is your father and your father's love?? Then suddenly the world opens up and you find yourself curious and just wanting more but you can't seem to wanna leave your father behind! Well this is what happened to the main character Rose. It's a tricky position and a very edgy one as well.

    Watch the movie to see what happens. ;D...more info
  • Unusual & Interesting
    "The Ballad of Jack & Rose" was directed by Rebecca Miller who is the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and is the wife of this film's star, Daniel Day Lewis. Her last screenwriting + directing project "Angela" won a 1994 trophy @ the Sundance film festival. Daniel Day Lewis is one of the most celebrated and unique actors working today. Since his breakthrough performance in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and an Oscar for "My Left Foot" as well as Oscar nominations for "In the Name of the Father" & "Gangs of New York," he has created an impressive body of work. Lewis who comes from well-known parents, Poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis & actress Jill Balcon (Nicholas Nickelby, 1947), plays Jack who has inherited a large bank account. Jack is an interesting mix of counter-cultural commune social experimenter and loving father to his daughter Rose. With his heart increasingly coming close to wearing out, he worries for his daughter, even as he tries to battle local developer Marty Rance played by Beau Bridges from building on what has traditionally been classified as wetland. His performance is an interesting mix of grit & determination with love & uncertainty. His daughter Rose is played Camilla Belle. She brings to the part a wide-eyed innocence combined with the natural stirrings of a young woman. Jack brings his girlfriend Kathleen to the island to hopefully have someone to help him through his deterioration and to provide a feminine hand for Rose. However, rather than bringing Kathleen gradually into their lives, Jack keeps this part of his life totally secret from Rose until the moment when Kathleen arrives with two sons and a trailer full of lamps & assorted belongings. Kathleen is played by the delightful Catherine Keener who is married to actor Dermot Mulroney. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Being John Malkovich" and has recently appeared as Sean Penn's police partner in "The Interpreter" with Nicole Kidman & as the love interest of "The 40 Year Old Virgin." Her son Rodney is a stocky, perhaps gay, hairdresser played by Ryan McDonald who was in "Bang Bang You're Dead" and has a small part in "Fierce People" that will come out next year with Diane Lane. Her other son Thaddius is wild & rebellious, experimenting with sex, drugs & reptiles. As Thaddius, Paul Dano does an excellent job of showing a calm exterior with an interior emotional life wound tight as a spring. It's the same quality that made his performance as the young serial killer in "Taking Lives" with Ashley Judd in 2004 so scary. Jason Lee has a cameo as Grey, the gardener who provides plants for Rose's garden. Jena Malone who played Susan Sarandon's daughter in "Stepmom" from 1998 and had a small part in "Cold Mountain" comes to the island as Red Berry. It's an interesting cameo part that gives Rose a glimpse of free love as Red Berry & Thaddeus are watched. (...) However, with the family domestic scenes including a copperhead snake in the house and the shotgun assault on the developer, it makes us feel like we've shared the lives of some very unusual but interesting people. Enjoy!...more info
    I bought this film just because Daniel Day-Lewis was in it. I had to think about it even so because of what might be objectionable content and I didn't want to get into such a film with Mr. Day-Lewis. Thank goodness my interest in his performances overcame all this negativity and I went ahead. There are many reviews here that explain the movie in indepth detail. For me Daniel Day-Lewis makes this movie. He portrays his character (Jack) so well that you mourn for him and ache for the young daughter (Rose)who is going to live a large portion of her lifetime without this father who is absolutely everything to her but is very ill and will die soon. Still this pull toward each other in an unhealthy way is relatively new and they are trying to maintain the loving relationship they have without really confronting this problem. He definitely has the girlfriend, Kathleen, (who has two teenage sons that he had never met) move in with him and his daughter (big mistake) to help keep the relationship one of father/daughter but he tries to tell his daughter this is "just an experiment" to possibly get the help they need since he is so ill. Actually, he was in a panic over his feelings about his daughter when he made this decision, had never mentioned this girlfriend to his daughter, and there doesn't seem to be a connection other than physical with this woman, therefore it was destined to fail. The contrast of homelife before vs. after these people move in is absolutely terrible to say the least. If I had to start each day with these people after what had been my normal everyday life, I would have probably become self-destructive too. This "intrusion" into their lives is the beginning of the end. Rose is extremely hurt and angry and feels "tricked" into having to live with these people. This parent and child have been alone on this island many years, and feelings have become confused. She has begun to be seductive in her behavior and she wants to actively pursue this type of relationship with her father but he is overwhelmed with how to handle this situation and is overcome with guilt about the feelings he has for her. This film handles this departure from the norm in such a caring way that you become completely engrossed with their problems overall and understand how difficult this is for the father to confront and resolve. No one could have made me believe I would love this film as I do. Please don't be put off by what may seem to be a movie regarding unacceptable behavior because you will miss some of the best performances ever given, in my opinion, as well as a film you won't ever forget. I do hope that Daniel Day-Lewis will continue to make films. He is excellent at his craft. Do yourself a favor and try this. Just be aware that due to the problems addressed in this film, a lot of pain and anguish are involved and the end of this film is beautiful but absolutely heartbreaking....more info


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