Film Reviews

Jane – Film Review

Long-time followers of Set The Tape perhaps know that I’m more of a Throwback writer. Delving into films of the past and seeing how they play out. However, finding myself wanting to engage more with something at least released in the last year, I took on the offer to watch Jane, a high-school psychological thriller starring two intensely popular actresses whom I knew nothing about. However, I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued by the film’s story.

After the suicide of a pupil (Chloe Yu) at an all-girls school, Olivia (Madelaine Petsch), one of her closest friends, looks to adjust, although she’s just been deferred from Stanford College, her school of choice. This proves difficult due to the grief caused by her friend’s passing. To recapture some stability in her life, Olivia joins up with her old friend Izzy (Chloe Bailey) and embarks on a series of social media pranks aimed at the people who she felt have wronged her in the past year. The pranks are uploaded on the account of the duo’s deceased friend, allowing an amount of anonymity over their antics. However, the pranks escalate and soon lead both Olivia and Izzy to dangerous consequences.

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It’s disappointing to say that Jane is a rather flat experience. Despite an amount of buoyancy from the film’s two leads, there’s not much about Jane to shout about. Much of this comes down to the film simply lacking in vital narrative areas. Jane’s scant pace of 83 minutes leaves the film open to predictability and poor characterisation, both of which strongly affect it.

It’s not that Jane doesn’t want to say anything interesting. Far from it. It wants to deal with the weaponisation of social media. The idea of high-school seniors wrecking the lives of those around them via perceived concealment on the internet is an appropriate one. Especially with the reasoning being for an element of personal gain. Moments of Jane manage to play on the fears of the internet and the desire to get ahead with a certain amount of effectiveness. One scene involving incidental violence on a pupil works extremely well, highlighting the troubling aspect of how phone cameras capture enough of “the truth” to efficiently action the downfall of a career with no impartiality.

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Madelaine Petsch plays Olivia with the same dogged dedication one would find in a modern-day Tracy Flick, while Chole Bailey’s popular Izzy provides an interesting contrast to Olivia’s more bookish persona. However, the problem arises in that the film’s leanness provides no real depth to the relationship. The duo’s relationship is not fleshed out enough to feel fully plausible. The same goes for the titular Jane, who appears throughout the film as an apparition. The reason for this at first appears to be as a motif for guilt before becoming something quite sinister. However, the screenplay is thin on building upon her character with anything apart from her death, while her appearances do every little to unsettle.

The skinniness in the film’s character development only leaves the film’s unsatisfying outcome finished on a sourer note. It tries to go for a strong play which suggests who wins and who loses when it comes to exclusive schooling. But with the its lack of foundation, its characters and their backstories, a potent message falls flat. Jane will probably be an entertaining watch for fans of its two leads. However, if looking for a recent film which deals with the psychological trauma that comes with abnormal competitiveness, one could do worse than checking out Lauren Hadaway’s The Novice (2021), while the dangers of social media were very well illustrated in Quinn Shepard’s amusingly entertaining Not Okay (2022). Both of these films manage to scratch an itch that, unfortunately, Jane is a little too out of reach to scratch.

Jane is out now on Digital from 101 Films.

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