You Don’t Know Jack – Review

You Don’t Know Jack (2010) 

Director: Barry Levinson Writer: Adam Mazer Stars: Al Pacino, Brenda Vaccaro and John Goodman, Susan Sarandon

This wasn’t an easy watch, I have to tell you. More than once during the long 134 minutes (according to imdb, or 164 according to my SkyBox) I thought of stopping the recording and quitting the film before the end.

I was an absolute wreck throughout and I must have lost the count of the times my eyes were so watery that I couldn’t even see the screen anymore. But in the end the film is so skillfully done, beautifully acted, well paced and gripping that I couldn’t turn it off.

It is one of the most powerful film I’ve seen in the last few years, one that touches a subject that still divides the world: euthanasia.

I am extremely happy I saw it, but I don’ t know if I could do it again.

Oscar winner Director Barry Levinson has obviously got an agenda and the film is by no means impartial, and yet it never feels heavy-handed and in fact by the end, there’s still a lot of room for discussion.

The music, for example, is used sparingly and whenever is there, it doesn’t feel overdone.

The deaths of the people in the euthanasia scenes are quite detailed and intense to an almost unbearable level, especially at the beginning of the film: But once you get the idea of how the whole process works, after about 30 minutes or so, the “assisted suicides” become less graphic and they begin to happen more and more off-camera, though respectfully they’re always signaled by  a caption with the full name of the person who’s just died.

That makes you always very aware you’re watching something real, something that has actually happened. Consequently it makes it even harder to watch. However the film is never exploitive.

Of course, if you really wanted to pick it apart, then you would probably argue that there isn’t enough time given to the opposite side of argument. Only a few sound-bites are given to the protesters and the prosecutors are very sketchy characters,who are only seen arguing their cases during the court cases; however mercifully they are not caricatures and we never laugh at them (which would have been terribly manipulative).

There are some lighter moments here and there and I did find myself laughing at the dark and surreal humor, but, on the whole, given the subject itself, this is pretty serious stuff and there’s not a lot to laugh about.

On paper this could have become the cheesy, typical TV-movie-of-the-week: and yet “You don’t know Jack”  has that Quality (with a caption Q) we’ve all become to expect from a HBO production over the years: the direction, the photography, the editing, the script and of course the acting!!

First and foremost Al Pacino, who truly gives one of the best performance of his life  and within the first few minutes completely disappears inside the role of  Jack Kevorkian.

He shows us the best of him and the worst. He wants to help, he’s compassionate, he’s got principles and he has guts, but he’s also an arrogant, sometimes vicious and not necessarily a nice man. He’s also a reclusive man who hardly shares his feelings with anyone (hence the great title “you don’t know Jack”).

The supporting cast is great too, from the ever-wonderful John Goodman, to Susan Sarandon.

In the end whether you agree with Kevorkian’s practices or not, it is hard not to be compelled by this movie. Whether you react positively or negatively to it will probably be tainted with personal views about assisted suicide rather than the film’s actual merits. But since this is still an ongoing dilemma, it’s great to see a film exploring the issue so well. It’s interesting that they choose to do it as a TV movie as opposed to for the big screen: it makes you think whether America is actually ready for the debate… (and don’t tell me, the manipulative, “Million Dollar baby” did it before).


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2 Responses to You Don’t Know Jack – Review

  1. rorydean says:

    Hey there…solid, solid review. I can’t agree more with your observations and agree Pacino is stripped to the bone for this performance and he delivers it as effortlessly as though he has been preparing for the part his entire career. It’s really hard to go wrong with John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, both talented and adept performers who bring something to even the most ineffective films (Just watched Bringing Out The Dead, again, and Goodman is maybe the only other character aside from Ving Rhames worth watching — a poor, poor Scorsese picture. And what about Moonlight Mile? Hoffman was lost and Sarandon seemed to make the most of a muddy, direction-less film.)

    That being said, nice notes about “the man” and “the actor” and Pacino’s way of conveying so much of the character of the person. Aside from an interesting biopic you actually see a transformation as Pacino becomes Kevorkian.


  2. Pingback: You Don’t Know Jack – Review (via moviegeekblog) | The Calculable

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