by Tony Dayoub
Underrated director Bernard Rose (Candyman) buries his tendency to sex things up in Two Jacks, his latest update of a Leo Tolstoy tale. In this case, it's Tolstoy's short story "Two Hussars." The movie contrasts father and son scoundrels, one somewhat more lovable than the other, in a Hollywood setting. Familiar incidents and people link the two in mirror storylines differentiating Old Hollywood in the form of dad, famed filmmaker Jack Hussar, Sr. (Danny Huston), from New Hollywood in the person of his son, novice director Jack Hussar, Jr. (Danny's nephew Jack Huston of Boardwalk Empire). Though the opportunity is there for Rose to indulge in his usual eroticizing, the casting of the gorgeous Sienna Miller as Diana, a young actress who has a memorable fling with Jack Sr., is the extent of the director's foray into sexual territory. What the ultra-low budget Two Jacks does well is allow Rose to continue liberating himself from the regimented stylistic flourishes he had mastered in films like Immortal Beloved.
Like his other Tolstoy updates, Two Jacks is shot on DV, encouraging considerable fluidity on the part of Rose's camerawork (he's the director of photography as well) and a freedom for his actors to improvise. Improvisation does expose some of his uneven cast's shortcomings. Veterans like Danny Huston, Jacqueline Bisset and Richard Portnow come off much better than Jack Huston and Sienna Miller who both seem more locked into preconceptions of their characters. But the rewards in Two Jacks can be found in the arch volatility Danny Huston brings to his endearing scamp, Jack Sr., a Hemingway-esque has-been whose crooked smile still allows him entrée into the best Hollywood parties, lets him getaway without so much as a traffic citation when he's pulled over for drunk driving, but doesn't quite allow him to check into his favorite hotel after leaving them holding an outstanding $2700 tab (he does manage to convince Diana's sycophantic brother Brad to pay the bill for him). Flawed as it is, Two Jacks is a small, intriguing extension of Rose's newfound penchant for experimentation.