Wednesday, December 10, 2003

REVIEW: Portrait Of Jennie

* * ½ (out of four)

Seen 7 December 2003 in Jay's Living Room (WGBH)

Every few months, WGBH-2 has a month where they fill their overnight hours with old movies instead of airing them Sunday afternoon/evening on channel 44. They're not necessarily taken from great prints, the start and end times listed are of the +/- 10 minutes variety, and they can really fill up the ReplayTV's hard drive if you're like me and treat them like free DVDs - well, I may not want to watch it tonight, but maybe later...

They're doing it again, but there's precious little room to maneuver on my Replay because of the other old movies I've recorded and forgotten (that, and the complete runs of Big Guy And Rusty The Boy Robot and Strange World I really intend to save on tape). So, time to start clearing some space. First up - Portait Of Jennie.

The movie can perhaps be best described as a ghost story which isn't a horror movie. Painter Eben Adams is uninspired until he meets a young girl by the name of Jennie Appleton. The girl seems curiously out of place, speaks of her family working at a theater that's no longer in existence, and the second time Eben sees her, has aged quite a bit.

There's the core of a good story here, but it's also kind of frustrating - Adams never seems to have any curiosity about why or how someone from years ago is appearing to him, nor does he try to track her down in his present day after he realizes there's something odd about her (granted, this was a more daunting challenge back in those pre-internet days). There's also a ton of narration and stilted dialog - it's clearly an old adaptation of an even older book. And there's something creepy about the romantic feelings Adams develops toward a girl who, from his perspective, was something like ten years old scant weeks earlier.

If you overlook that, though, the romance is kind of interesting, and the movie plays with color tints in an interesting way toward the end, having previously been entirely in black-and-white (or the print WGBH used really, really sucked). Portrait Of Jennie is an interesting curiosity, but not a classic.

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