Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin
Written by: Arnaud Desplechin, Julie Peyr & Kent Jones
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Mathieu Amalric, Elya Baskin, Gina McKee, Larry Pine & Gary Farmer
JIMMY P. was one of the nominees for the Cannes 2013 Palme d’Or (competing with THE IMMIGRANT and losing to BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR). The script is a story of talking heads digging into the rooted issues of one oppressed man with a whole lot of baggage under his belt. Running at just under two hours, the entire movie had a possibility of coming off as one pretentious and boring tale that didn’t engage the viewer in the slightest. Thankfully, this is absolutely not the case. JIMMY P. is an extremely interesting tale that resonates on some deep levels and benefits from palpable chemistry between the two main characters.
Recently returned veteran Jimmy Picard is suffering from unusual medical problems. He experiences temporary periods of blindness and excruciating headaches. The Blackfoot Indian did suffer a head injury during the war, but nothing physical appears to be bringing these afflictions on. The doctors are quick to rush to an easy conclusion of Picard being just plain crazy. They diagnose him with schizophrenia and ship him off to a mental asylum in the middle of nowhere. This is where Dr. George Devereux comes in. This quirky psychologist has extensive study in the Native American history/beliefs and rushes to Jimmy’s aid. The two embark on a mental journey through Picard’s past and dreams. Together, they try to figure out what is causing these severe symptoms and more importantly, how to cure them.
I’m not sure how closely the film resembles the actual events that took place. Every Google search I did on the subject matter seemed to bring me to more info about this film and no fact-based evidence that this was an accurate portrayal of what went down between Devereux and Picard. This kind of movie is obviously made for a specific audience. Those who don’t fancy watching a psychiatrist and his patient going through many sessions and memories aren’t bound to find anything especially gripping here. However, those interested in the field of psychology or the least bit intrigued by the subject matter of JIMMY P are rewarded with a very well-made film that contains some fine chemistry between Benicio Del Toro (starring in the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) and Matthieu Amalric (recently seen in GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL). The two seem to work off each other and get along famously in their roles. In one particular argument scene, I enjoyed watching both performers interact and everything seemed realistically civil. Del Toro might appear an odd choice to play a Blackfoot indian, but he comes across as a suitable actor for the role (far less offensive than Depp in THE LONE RANGER).
JIMMY P. has a few issues in assuming that the viewer has an understanding of certain Native American cultural traits and what some big psycho-babble terms mean. It’s not constantly through the film, but there were definitely a few moments where I went “Wait, what are you even talking about?” Luckily, it made sense a few minutes later. Then there’s the completely unnecessary plot thread of Devereux’s girlfriend coming to visit him that had little payoff and only served to pad the running time. If this entire subplot had been cut, then the film would have run at a manageable length that might have come off as a tighter final cut altogether. Instead, JIMMY P.’s running time is a tad excessive.
If you’re interested in psychology or Native American culture, then JIMMY P. is a rather satisfying experience. The running time may be long, but I was never bored or taken out of the film. A couple of scenes that assume you have a background in psychology, but they don’t take up a huge portion. This is a story of talking heads that winds up being a very interesting and remarkable piece of cinema. It’s not without some flaws, but I highly recommend JIMMY P.