Coming to theatres this Friday from director/writer Arnaud Desplechin and IFC Films is an intense session in the life of Jimmy P.
This film tells the story of Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro), a Native American who served in the war. After an accident he lives with his sister on their farm. Since the war Jimmy has suffered from severe and crippling headaches.
His sister Gayle (Michelle Thrush) gathers Jimmy’s medical charts and takes him to the Veterans hospital. There he has difficulty with the tests and the doctors are not quite sure how to diagnose him because he is an Indian.
They call George Devereux (Mathieu Amalric), a French psychoanalyst who has a cultural understanding of Jimmy’s life having lived with the Mojave Indians. Although Jimmy is Lakota, Devereux knows there are base similarities and believes he can help him.
They begin quickly delving into Jimmy’s past with his parents, wives, daughter and sister and the stories there are with each. He also tells Devereux things he never thought were important – until now.
Devereux has his own issues while treating Jimmy. Having an affair with a very married Madeleine (Gina McKee), he cannot seem to make the commitment that can take him back to France. A place he has sworn he would never return too.
These two men whose might never have met under the most normal circumstances, come together and discover the tragedy’s of life, the pains of love and the sacrifices needed to come face to face with a broken soul.
FINAL WORD: Del Torro as Jimmy Picard is an interesting choice to play this role. I know interesting is one of those cringe-worthy words but I mean it in the truest sense. Watching his performance I felt an immersion into this character that is seriously required if the viewer is to take this journey. His ‘accent’ sounded a bit like a cross between Edward James Olmos and well word annunciated Tonto.
Pushing past that it is that listening we all need to do that comes in handy here. Listen to his stories, the pain (both physical and emotional), the surprise, the heartbreak, the reality and the admitting to mistakes. It all comes through Del Torro’s voice and expression until the very last scene.
Amalric as Devereux is a twitchy, excited, problematic character who, at first, sees Jimmy as an opportunity for advancement. His way of speaking and the questions that seem to come out of nowhere are actually quite brilliant. Even his love affair seems so out of place yet perfect. Yes, it’s one of those characters that is definitely hard to define. There are two scenes that stand out for me in this actors regard and the first is when Jimmy is having a breakthrough and beginning to speak for himself – to see Devereux remain calm and even congratulate Jimmy is grand.
The second scene is not saying goodbye in the usual way to Jimmy. His explanation for what he does actually took my breath away. Jimmy might have started off as an opportunity for him, which is was, but it brought close that Devereux needed himself – a calmness of his own soul.
McKee as Madeleine is a strong woman who is a bundle of energy. Feeling not only love but responsibility for Devereaux put her own heart at risk. No one said loving was easy. It was good to see A. Martinez, even if only briefly.
Other cast include: Larry Pine as Dr. Karl Menninger, Joseph Cross as Dr. Holt, Gary Farmer as Jack, Misty Upham as Jane, Jennifer Podemski as Doll, Elya Baskin as Dr. Joki, Anton Bassey as Sam, Michael Greyeyes as Allan, and A. Martinez as Bear Willie Claw.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give JIMMY P. three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. This is deficiently a film meant for an audience willing to spend time listening. It is all about listening and putting the pieces together along with the character of Jimmy.
It is sad to see the difference the medical profession believed required special treatment just because Jimmy was an Indian. As if there were something physiologically different in the way suffering works between a Caucasian and a Native American. To listen to Jimmy’s story it is clear that child trauma, parental neglect, addictions and fear of life has no cultural boundaries. It crosses over freely and takes a hold of any unsuspecting soul. This character wanted to be himself never realizing it was even possible.
Coming in at 114 minutes there are slow moments to be sure and sudden gaps that fill themselves out if you are patient enough. Then again I’d probably be a little unnerved if director Desplechin tried to cram these two stories into an hour and fifteen minutes.
In the end – it is a journey so few of us have the courage to take.