Article first published as Sundance 2014 Movie Review: 'Jamie Marks is Dead' on Blogcritics.
If there’s one thing Guillermo del Toro’s Devil’s Backbone didn’t have, or need, was a bisexual love triangle between the living and the dead. But here we are with just that in Jamie Marks Is Dead.
Writer/Director Carter Smith makes his debut adapting the novel by
Christopher Barzak into a boring escape of young love between high
schoolers Adam (Cameron Monaghan), Gracie (Morgan Saylor), and the ghost
of Jamie Marks (Noah Silver).
morning, Gracie is down by the river when she comes across the dead
body of Jamie Marks holding a suicide note. At school, students and
teachers pretend that they’re sorrowful over the tragic event even
though had no friends and was bullied. Adam decides to check out the
scene of Jamie’s death and comes across Gracie who’s left candles
burning in memoriam. Adam and Gracie are attracted to each other and
spend their time dry humping and trying to ignore Jamie’s ghost who
lingers outside Gracie’s house. Eventually, Adam steps up to try and
help Jamie come to terms with his death, while his interaction makes
everyone around him — including his mother Linda (Liv Tyler) — start to
question Adam’s sanity.
If you’re looking for a modern day version of The Devil’s Backbone reimagined by Larry Clark, then Jamie Marks Is Dead
is the film for you. Between the dry humping, oral sex, and teenage
pubic hair — if the film is picked up for distribution — cuts will be
made. While Carter Smith may be aiming for teenage authenticity, it’s
probably going to be a little much for the MPAA. But I’m not quite sure
who the film is made for, aside from maybe fans of the book.
A few things happen that might make sense in written form are
eye-rollingly awkward on film. Jamie keeps asking Adam to whisper words
into his ear which seem to have an orgasmic effect on him, but we’re
never told why Jamie wants to hear these really sweet-nothings.
Smith does do a good job of keeping things moody and brooding, but
unfortunately, atmosphere alone does not make a good movie. Jamie Marks Is Dead isn’t a complete wash, but a more appropriate title might be Jamie Marks Is Bleh.
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute