The problem with road movies, it must be said, is not so much the obligatory sweeping landscape shots and guitars strumming round the campfire. There is the whole predictable business of unlikely opposites thrown together and discovering themselves and each other through adversity yadi-yadi-yah. Yes, the problem is that there isn’t much that can be added to the genre that hasn’t been tried already (Trans-America, anyone? Little Miss Sunshine?). To its credit, Jackie does go the extra mile in trying to tease drama out of unlikely circumstances. Dutch twins Sofie and Daan are the offspring of two gay dads and a hippy American surrogate mother who did the deed then vanished from their lives thirty odd years ago. Sofie is a career driven journalist, Daan ditzy and under the thumb of a domineering partner. The two are so far apart that Sophie only realises that her twin is contemplating IVF treatment when it slips out during dinner with their two dads. So far, so good.
The thrown-together-by-unlikely-circumstances moment comes courtesy of the unexpected appearance in their lives of Jackie, their surrogate mother. A compound fracture of the leg requires a spell in rehabilitation, through the clouds and far away in New Mexico; Jackie is threatening to batter innocent orderlies in a hospital across the United States, and a conveniently perforated eardrum means that flying her to New Mexico is out of the question. Jackie needs an escort, and her “children” are her only living relatives that can be traced. One gathers that this may have something to do with the fact that Jackie, mother dearest, is in turns taciturn and a termagant, an itinerant wanderer living out of an elderly camper van. Someone has to drive her cross country; who better than the twin daughters whom she has never set eyes on since their birth?
To be fair, Jackie does its best with a pretty limited hand. Sofie and Daan (played by real life sisters Carice and Jelka van Houten are at first stilted and awkward, both with each other and with the camera. But the when the obligatory mishaps between then on the road evokes real hostility as opposed to polite resentment, the sparks fly with an authenticity that one suspects comes from years of practice. Jackie – played by Holly Hunter – is an amusing diversion, but her presence is a rather unsubtle and played in one key, everything leading up to her – admittedly unlikely – role as designated sibling relationship facilitator.
A hit in the Netherlands last summer, Jackie does have an undeniable charm, but on the whole suffers from having a very long set lead up to a relatively limited pay off. If one is able to stave off the ennui of the first half of the film, then it is a painless affair. But don’t expect too much.
Jackie will be released in Israel on December 20, 2012. Orlando Films.
Jackie (Netherlands, 100 min, 2012, Dutch/English with Hebrew subtitles)
Director: Antoinette Beumer, Cast: Carice van Houten, Jelka van Houten, Holly Hunter.