Not as well known as he should be outside of France, writer-director Arnaud Desplechin has had a high profile at home ever since his uneven but rewarding feature debut ‘La Sentinelle’ in 1992. That assessment – uneven but rewarding – might be applied to a career that takes in the meandering but mostly marvellous ‘My Sex Life... Or How I Got into an Argument’, the ambitious but fairly dire ‘Esther Kahn’, or the fine but flawed ‘Kings and Queen’ and ‘A Christmas Tale’.
Central to most of Desplechin’s work has been the actor Mathieu Amalric, who in ‘Jimmy P’ plays Georges Devereux, an anthropologist and psychoanalyst with a special interest in Native Americans. In the late 1940s, he meets Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro), a Blackfoot Indian suffering a range of disorders since returning to Montana from the war in Europe. When Devereux, a Hungarian Jew passing himself off as a Frenchman, is invited to a Kansas military hospital by doctors who are at a loss to decide whether Picard's problems are pyschological or physical, a friendship begins to develop as the two men delve into the patient’s past.
Based on real events, Desplechin’s film is a modest but very passable affair. It meanders along, often feeling a little inconsequential but somehow managing to remain interesting throughout. Though some scenes involving Gina McKee as Devereux’s English lover seem rather tacked on, the two lead performances are basically so sympathetic that it’s impossible not to share the anthropologist’s concern for Picard’s wellbeing. And while the film is undoubtedly less engagingly eccentric and original than Desplechin’s best work – with far too much of Howard Shore’s music underscoring the seriousness of Picard’s predicament – it is an enormous improvement on ‘Esther Kahn’, his one previous film in English.
Cast and crew
|Cast:||Benicio Del Toro