Jamie Marks Is Dead Review

Posted: September 11, 2014 in 2014 Fantasy FilmFest, Drama, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

JamieMarksJamie Marks Is Dead is a film that is more interested in being earnest than it is in being entertaining. It is a muddled mess that purports to be a message movie, but one that cannot articulate a coherent view. Jamie Marks Is Dead is more easily characterized by the things it is not, than by what it is. It is not a horror movie. It is not a ghost story. It is not a mystery or a thriller. It is not an allegory about bullying or even a worthwhile feature-length public service announcement for It Gets Better.

On the other hand, it is long, languid, and dull, albeit well intentioned.

Jamie Marks is the high school loser who only gets noticed when its swirly time in the boys locker room or when his almost nude body is found washed up on the banks of the local river. As played by Noah Silver, Jamie is a buff Harry Potter lookalike, whose constant coming out of closets as a ghost is the closest this film comes to humor. Jamie’s sexuality, and the role it may or may not have played in his demise, is hinted at, but never fully explored. The possible object of his affection, Adam McCormick (Cameron Monaghan), becomes Jamie’s after life and after school best friend, and one of only two living people who can see Jamie as a ghost.

The other is Gracie Highsmith (Morgan Saylor), still another high school outcast, who discovered the corpse and now chooses to ignore dead Jamie every bit as ferverntly as she shunned him while he was alive. Saylor is best known as Dana Brody on Homeland, and for all those who felt she very nearly ruined that show in season three, this film will not dispel any of that ill will. Saylor is a young actress with many positive qualities, but annoying may be her default setting.

We are led to believe that Jamie may have been murdered by his classmates, but the investigation is as tepid as everything else in the film. The subplot of Adam’s mother (Liv Tyler in a what-the-hell’s-the-point-of-this role) being paralyzed and then befriended by the woman who ran into her adds nothing to the proceedings nor does the periodic appearances of Adam’s bullying older brother Aaron (Ryan Munzert). And before you jump to the conclusion that brothers bearing biblical names like Adam and Aaron must relate to one of the themes of the story, be aware that it doesn’t have any greater signifcance than alliteration in this narrative.

The one cast member who shines is Madisen Beaty as “Fuck You” Frances, a local urban legend who murdered her parents and now must relive that experience over and over again in the abandoned family homestead. Beaty brings high energy and raw emotion to the role of a spiteful, high-strung spirit; in short, everything the film is otherwise missing. Her too brief time on screen captures more about the restless, angry, almost crazed teenage desire to simultaneously rebel and fit in than all the rest of Jamie Marks Is Dead.

Director/screenwriter Carter Smith has a keen visual eye, and his capturing the bleakness of a harsh winter in a small town is the most eloquent part of his film. But, unfortunately, it is fine technical work in search of a compelling story.

One and a half stars.



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