Wednesday, June 20, 2012

(30) Stars of Summer - Day 20: Jennifer Jason Leigh

It's already been established that today's entry is one of my favorite actresses. Now we all get to see why.

Here are the rules. Check out this list of all the month's actors with links to what's available on Netflix Instant. If you're not a Netflix subscriber, maybe this will help.

Day 1: Jimmy Stewart
Day 2: Catherine Deneuve
Day 3: Christopher Lee
Day 4: Bette Davis
Day 5: Nicolas Cage
Day 6: Diane Keaton 
Day 7: Orson Welles 
Day 8: Catherine Keener 
Day 9: Kurt Russell
Day 10: Pam Grier
Day 11: Clint Eastwood
Day 12: Susan Sarandon 
Day 13: Cary Grant 
Day 14: Barbara Stanwyck 
Day 15: Keith David 
Day 16: Frances McDormand 
Day 17: Gary Oldman 
Day 18: Marilyn Monroe 
Day 19: Dick Miller 


  1. Dolores Claiborne (1995)

    Based on the Stephen King novel, the titular character (played by Kathy Bates) was accused of murdering the woman she works for and was indicted for her murder, so her daughter Selena (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) arrives from New York to help her out. In the course of working out the details of what had happened, many past lives are explored about Dolores' home life and Selena's troubled childhood.

    One of the best Stephen King adaptations of the 1990s, Bates, Leigh and many others (including Christopher Plummer & David Strathairn) each did a masterful job with their roles.

    1. Agreed! That movie is super underrated, and hardly ever gets mentioned in conversations about the best Stephen King adaptations.

  2. Sister Sister (1987)

    Film has most of the ingredients to make a fine hothouse Southern gothic, including Leigh and Judith Ivey as the titular sisters running a bed-and-breakfast in the Louisiana Bayou. Unfortunately, the movie is fatally undone by a clumsy script and a weak lead in Eric Stoltz. The film morphs from an atmospheric mystery into a silly slasher flick in the third act, before ending up as a Spielbergian ghost story. And yes, that is a damn strange mix of tones. If that wasn’t bad enough, John Carpenter must have ripped off the ending of this movie for his horrendous film The Ward.

  3. Miami Blues

    Charles Willeford wrote four Hoke Moseley novels, and it's a damn shame that this adaptation of the first didn't kick off a franchise. Fred Ward plays Moseley and he's terrific, but he feels like a supporting character (and the marketing treated him as such) since the movie puts most of its focus on Alec Baldwin's murderous con-man. Baldwin is electric, his actions are repellent but his performance is mesmerizing. Leigh is flat-out perfect as the sweet hooker who wants nothing more than to believe the things Baldwin tells her. Florida noir is an overstuffed subgenre, but this stands out as one of the best I've seen.

  4. The Men's Club (1986)

    Jumbled talk-fest has a group of New York Method actors try to out-monologue one another under the guise of a 'Men's Night Out'. Underwhelming cast, mostly just drags.

    Stand-outs are the always wonderful Frank Langella and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is stupefyingly attractive as the prostitute Langella spends his evening with.

  5. Sister Sister (1987)

    Totally agree with everything Steve K. said about this. Bill Condon (his first movie) goes crazy with style, but it's almost as if he's compensating for a movie that tries to be SO MANY THINGS. Normally, I would love a movie that shifted gears every 15 minutes or so, but this just feels like a big mess. Jennifer Jason Leigh is naked a whole lot, for those people who are into that kind of thing. And by that I mean people with eyes.

    1. Let me ask you, Patrick. After watching the opening dream sequence, did you think this was going to be a movie about sexual repression? It seemed to me another example of the screenplay going in one direction only to veer off into another.

  6. THE JACKET (2005)

    A very atmospheric and gothic-in-modern-times-but-overstuffed-with-metaphors "time travel" movie (produced by Soderbergh, Clooney and 17 other producers!) about a Gulf War veteran (Adrien Brody in full-on Bale-in-"The Machinist" mode) that's sent to an insane asylum for crimes he didn't commit in '91. Brody winds up the victim of Kris Kristofferson's torture-therapy-in-a-straight-jacket device that, when he's locked in a body drawer, can send Brody into the future four days before his preventable death. It's a very tricky movie/premise to sell/explain (probably the main reason why it bombed in '05) but Keira Knightley, Daniel Craig (in a very quirky as-far-from-Bond-as-possible role as a crazy man) and J.J. Leigh (as the only doctor that believes Adrien's crazy time travel theory and helps him out) give Brody's lead performance enough supporting strength to make "The Jacket" at least watchable. It's no "Jacob's Ladder" but it tries hard to be, and ambition like that is commendable even when it comes up short.

    1. Word. I didn't love that movie, but can't disagree with anything you say about it.

  7. Margot at the Wedding (2007): I'm not crazy about this movie -- it really, for whatever reason, bummed me out. Noah Baumbach's unique brand of dysfunction feels played out, and most of the characters are grating. HOWEVER, Jennifer Jason Leigh is a fox, and probably a better actress than Nicole Kidman, who, as we all know, is a cat. Kitty's gotta scratch!