Understanding Jane (2001)

     “Understanding Jane” is basically adequate as a talky lightweight Britcom, but becomes repellent and unconvincing when dealing with the romance between nice guy Elliot (Kevin McKidd) and vindictive, manipulating petty crook ‘Dallas’ AKA the Jane of the title (Amelia Curtis.) Attractive and pleasant McKidd and John Simm, as the friend give it their best shot and the girls (Curtis and Louisa Milwood-Haigh, as Curtis’ partner in crime and Simm’s love interest) follow suit, but nothing can endear this match made in hell to us.

   Elliot and Oz (Simm) respond to a personals ad and are coupled up with ‘Dallas’ and ‘Popeye,’ two good-time gals who proceed to ditch them with the bill. The guys eventually get their well-deserved revenge, but Elliot is drawn to Dallas, in that squabbling rom-com way. Dallas is just giving Elliot the run-around, but somehow she develops feelings for the poor sod. So, you would think she would repent from her toying with his feelings and we would see some character development on her part.

   The thing is, not really. She never seems to be particularly sorry for manipulating Elliot, or undergo any change. The final gag (her throwing his TV out the window after he is on the losing end of a bet) only shows how tight she has her talons wrapped around him. Elliot seems like a nice enough guy, and I feel sorry for him. Dallas is always playing with his feelings, and any seeming progression in her feelings toward him are really just a means to an end.

   There is a lot to dislike about this movie’s technical competence (music that just sounds like background noise, fade-outs that inexplicably turn blue, grainy camerawork.) Also, despite a few clever come-backs and conversations, it simply isn’t very funny. The plotline about Dallas’ psycho ex goes pretty much nowhere, and gives us virtually no ‘understanding’ of her character.

   I loved John Simm on his short stint as a villain in “Doctor Who,” and I like his character here, but it’s hard to be involved when Jane’s hold on Elliot dominate most of the movie. Also, what the f is with Dallas (Jane) introducing Elliot to the world of petty crime? ‘Steal this CD.’ And he does it! Elliot’s getting by. He doesn’t need to end up behind bars for petty theft. Is this Borderline behavior supposed to be cute?

   Dallas is cruel, narcissistic, manipulative and likes nothing more than to toy with naive Elliot’s feelings. There’s virtually nothing likable about her. It would be bad enough if the movie didn’t enthusiastically condone Dallas’ behavior. Are we supposed to believe that a relationship between strait-laced Elliot and cuckoo-crazy Dallas could ever work in the real world?

   I would not recommend this movie to anyone, although I did like some of the dialogue. Andrew Lincoln (Sheriff Rick on the AMC zombie drama “The Walking Dead”) makes a brief appearance as a party guest. I don’t like movies that celebrate imbecilic and hurtful relationships, with an emphasis on good-for-nothing women taking men on ‘the ride of their lives.’ That’s just stupid. There’s nothing wrong with playing it safe and not breaking the law for no discernible reason. Hope you enjoy my analysis, readers. Bye!

 
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