Craig Silvey's bestselling novel Jasper Jones has been lauded for itsdeft exploration of racial tensions and small town prejudices throughthe lens of a coming of age tale and a who-dun-it mystery. While thebig screen adaptation, which Silvey co-scripted, retains much of whatmade the novel a hit, its loosely structured narrative doesn'ttranslate quite as effectively on the silver screen.<br><br>Set in the small mining town of Corrigan, Western Australia in 1969,Jasper Jones tells the story of bookish 13 year old, Charlie Bucktin(Levi Miller). One night an Aboriginal boy by the name of Jasper Jonestaps on his bedroom window asking for help. Startled by his suddenappearance but persuaded by his desperate pleading, Charlie agrees tofollow Jasper into the woods to the gruesome sight of a dead young girlhanging on a tree branch. Jasper makes it clear to Charlie that hedidn't kill the girl and reveals that he was in a relationship withher. The only problem is that he doesn't want to go to the police forfear that their racist attitude will see him unjustly blamed for herdeath. Charlie, who believes Jasper and is eager to help him, agrees tohide the body in a pond nearby and to keep their discovery a secret.<br><br>Unfortunately what should have been a good set-up for a mystery filmlacks one crucial element: there's no reason to suspect foul play inregards to the girl's death. When we first see Laura's body hangingfrom the tree, there's a more obvious conclusion to be made. Jasperinstead begins to make up stories surrounding her death and centers onthe idea that an old recluse, Mad Jack Lionel (played by the excellentbut criminally underused Hugo Weaving), must have murdered her. Charliebelieves Jasper, as there have been rumours that the old man has donebad things in the past, but there's not enough reason for the audienceto suspect the old man's involvement in matters. The suspicionsurrounding her death seems only to exist only in the eyes of thechildren and this robs the film of much of its tension, particularlytowards the end of the film when the kids finally decide to confrontMad Jack. <br><br>However, the confrontation still ends up being the stand out moment inthe film as it results in some startling revelations about Jasper Jonesas a character. It's a well-crafted dramatic scene that is onlyundermined by its lack of cohesion with the rest of the film. For mostof its running time, the film weaves together a collection of differentsubplots and side stories revolving around Charlie's life, includinghis parent's rocky marriage and his growing feelings towards local girlEliza (Angourie Rice). Jasper only periodically intersects with thenarrative and he remains a largely passive character, disappearing forlarge swathes of the film at a time. When the ending sharply puts thefocus back on him, it feels forced and disjointed; not allowing therevelation to hit with the devastating impact the film is clearlystriving for. <br><br>That's not to say that the film doesn't have its moments but overallJasper Jones feels like an amalgamation of disparate parts that onlycome together under the broad hat of a coming of age story. There's abit of everything: a touch of mystery, a pinch of comedy mixed in witha bit of family drama and racial tension. While parts of it work well,they never really come together cohesively, making the whole feel lessthan the sum of its parts.
Drama / Mystery
Drama / Mystery
JASPER JONES is a coming of age story about Charlie Bucktin, a bookish boy of 14. On the night that Jasper Jones, the town's mixed race outcast shows him the dead body of young Laura Wishart, Charlie's life is changed forever. Entrusted with this secret and believing Jasper to be innocent, Charlie embarks on a dangerous journey to find the true killer. Set over the scorching summer holidays of 1969, Charlie defeats the local racists, faces the breakup of his parents and falls head over heels in love as he discovers what it means to be truly courageous.
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