There've been a lot of angst-ridden, brewing, creatively stifled men in
the movies this year. From the mid-life-crisis paralyzed family man in
"American Beauty" to the beaten, numbed thirtysomethings in "Fight
Club," Hollywood has served up an image of male frustration in America
today that is as alarming as it is sympathetic, as troubling as it is
The independent feature "Jerome" very much follows this line of inquiry,
painting a portrait of a man that is confined and burnt out by his
immediate circumstances: his humdrum job, his emotionally indifferent
family and his general feeling of pervasive drudgery.
"Jerome" is not the name of the said protagonist. Rather, it's the
little desert commune in Arizona that the film's anti-hero Wade Hampton
(Drew Pillsbury) abandons his metal melding job, his high school
sweetheart wife, and his 13-year-old son for. It is a town he has only
come to know through the glossy surface of a beat-up postcard. A town of
unlimited potential precisely because it's something based on his own
Given such hapless motivations, Wade's symbolic journey to
self-realization cannot but be filled with disruptions and detours. His
itinerary begins to sway in many different, unexpected directions after
a free-spirited, gregarious drifter of dubious character named Jane
(Wendie Malick) crosses his path.
Written, directed and produced by Tom Johnston, David Elton and Eric
Tignini, "Jerome" is refreshingly introspective given its
characterization of a subject matter that has fast become a cliche.
Wade's pursuit is marked by such innocence and singleness of purpose
that it saves itself from the falling into simple nihilism and
regressive childishness. His conviction in his dream is so total that he
succeeds in blocking out the inherent emptiness of such a quest.
And it the character's unfaltering belief and the journey's prescribed
failure that finally lend the film its ironic, off-beat and tragicomic
quality. Near the end of the film, there's a scene in which Wade finally
realizes that he can no longer go on. He picks up the pay phone to call
home and is met with his wife's uninterrupted babbling. He immediately
hangs up and heads out again for Jerome, as if her voice was enough to
remind him of the dreadful reality he would have to go back to if he
doesn't go on.
Beautifully photographed, "Jerome" is a thoughtful, stylistic and
understated piece of filmmaking that is aware of what it is trying to
convey and how it wants to convey it. It exhibits moments of stylistic
flair but avoids over-stylization to allow the narrative unfold in a
paced, unhurried manner.
Aided by excellent performances from Pillsbury and Malick, "Jerome"
takes the viewers on a road less traveled. It is a road trip into the
core of everyday human dissatisfaction where the road is always bumpy,
the route is seldom in a straight line and the destination is never the
Drew Pillsbury: Wade Hampton
Wendie Malick: Jane
Scott McKenna: Cal
Beth Kennedy: Pamela Hampton
James Keenley: Paul Hampton
A Phaedra presentation. Writers, directors, producers Thomas Johnston,
David Elton and Eric Tignini. Director of photography Gina Degerolamo.
Editors Jet Film Co. Production designer Linette Shorr. Running time: 1
hour, 31 minutes.