Daniel Day Lewis plays Jack, a dying man with big ideals and an idealistic, impetuous teenage daughter in Rebecca Miller's third film "The Ballad of Jack And Rose." In what could have been a funny and compelling simple tale, Miller (daughter of playwright Arthur Miller) gets overwhelmed with importance. She juggles more themes than the film can possibly handle: loss of innocence, the failure to stay true to old hippie values in a cruel corporate world, the hypocrisy of adults, and, for good measure, a case of never consummated father-daughter incest.
Camilla Belle in "The Ballad of Jack and Rose"
Miller has an excellent cast at her disposal, including her Oscar winning husband Daniel Day Lewis, Catherine Keener in a sympathetic performance as his needy girlfriend, and Camilla Belle
, a stunningly beautiful young actress who clearly seems headed for stardom. (Cinematographer Ellen Kuras seems aware of her enormous charm, lingering for too many close-ups; there are also too many light flickering shots of the ocean and wild flowers waving in the wind.) In a screenplay that pushes credibility, Miller pushes her actors to the edge: way too many tears are shed and dramatic monologues delivered. Another film playing in theaters now, Campbell Scott's mesmerizing "Off the Map
" is a perfect example of how to tell a quiet, nuanced family drama about environmentally-correct eccentrics who live outside society.
Saddled with a highly sentimental opening and an overly dramatic end, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" has a rich and hilarious middle that truly makes the film worth watching. All credit is given not to Lewis, but to young Belle. She stages a remarkably effective and enthralling rebellion after her dying father invites his girlfriend and her two teenage sons to live with them.