May 18, 2013

Positive reviews of Jimmy P.

Jimmy P. Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian

By Mark AdamsAn impressively nuanced and intriguingly un-showy drama, Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P. Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is a film of subtle understatement, resisting the temptation to engage in overly dramatic flourishes and providing a solid platform for the charismatic talents of Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric, who deliver memorably mannered performances.

The issues in their characters’ background are touched on but never exploited, with Desplechin letting the gently developing relationship drive the story rather than any obvious dramatic devices.

Between them, Del Toro and Amalric could have reduced the film to a series of showy acting moments, but Desplechin seems to have been able to harness their considerable talents (for much of its time the film is a virtual two-hander, and could work just as well as a theatre production) to bring out the strength of this relatively simple story of a World War II veteran getting psychiatric help after the end of the war.
Cannes Film Review: ‘Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)’

This demanding but highly absorbing two-hander showcases Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric at the top of their craft

By Scott Foundas
The prosaic, marquee-challenging title tells mostly all in the case of “Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian),” Arnaud Desplechin’s profoundly Freudian study of loss and healing in post-WWII America, as seen through the experience of a dynamic shrink and his prize Native American patient. Largely a two-hander for stars Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric, both working at the top of their craft, this demanding but highly absorbing closeup on the analyst/analysand relationship seems sure to earn a warmer reception than the iconoclastic French auteur’s previous foray into English-lingo period filmmaking (with 2000’s unfairly maligned “Esther Kahn”). Pic’s highly specialized subject matter, however, presents a significant sales and marketing challenge, especially for distribs still licking their wounds from last year’s similar-themed “The Master.”

Sporting one of the more unusual literary sources ever adapted into a feature film, the pic draws its inspiration from “Reality and Dream,” a book-length case study by the ethnologist and psychoanalyst Georges Devereux (played by Amalric) about his treatment of one James Picard (Del Toro), a Blackfoot Indian whom Devereux encountered at Topeka’s famed Menninger Clinic in 1948. But as adapted by Desplechin, together with co-screenwriters Julie Peyr and Kent Jones, “Jimmy P.” constantly searches for—and finds—cinematic equivalents for Devereux’s clinical language.
Jimmy P., Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian: Cannes Review

By Deborah YoungPerhaps because there’s an actual case study behind the screenplay, adapted from Devereau's book Reality and Dream by Desplechin, Julie Peyr and Kent Jones, it goes off in unexpected directions as Jimmy’s sharp mind ranges over his past. Happily, breaking another tedious film clichĂ©, he doesn’t resist his doctor in the least and analysis rolls on briskly. Yes, there’s a traumatic Oedipal moment when little Jimmy sees his recently widowed mother in bed with another man, and on another occasion he gets a thrashing after being caught playing in the hay with a little girl. Then there’s the war and the accident in which he suffered a severe head injury. But ultimately, his greatest trauma involves his own mistreatment of his mistress and the daughter she bore him. Once that guilt is peeled away, a whole other level opens up of repressed anger over the prejudice and discrimination he is subject to as a Native American–another source of his blinding headaches.

In early scenes Del Toro devotes so much visible effort to acting the part that his performance is distracting, even off-putting. But as the film goes on, he becomes more natural in a complex role, leaving the viewer with the memory of a powerful and unusual mind, a man one would like to know. Amalric, who played a mental patient for Desplechin in Kings and Queen, is spectacularly likable in all his guises, except as the lover of a sophisticated married woman (Gina McKee) who comes out of nowhere and disappears in the same direction, leaving the audience to wonder what that was all about. Surely the screen time could have been put to better use sketching in some of the mysteries of this fascinating figure, a founder of ethno-anthropology.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see My Interview with Misty Upham and Del Toro to Play Native Veteran.

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