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Sundance 2014 Movie Review: ‘Jamie Marks Is Dead’

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If there’s one thing Guillermo del Toro’s Devil’s Backbone didn’t have, or need, was a bisexual love triangle between the living and the dead. But here we are with just that in Jamie Marks Is Dead. Writer/Director Carter Smith makes his debut adapting the novel by Christopher Barzak into a boring escape of young love between high schoolers Adam (Cameron Monaghan), Gracie (Morgan Saylor), and the ghost of Jamie Marks (Noah Silver).

JamieMarks3One morning, Gracie is down by the river when she comes across the dead body of Jamie Marks holding a suicide note. At school, students and teachers pretend that they’re sorrowful over the tragic event even though had no friends and was bullied. Adam decides to check out the scene of Jamie’s death and comes across Gracie who’s left candles burning in memoriam. Adam and Gracie are attracted to each other and spend their time dry humping and trying to ignore Jamie’s ghost who lingers outside Gracie’s house. Eventually, Adam steps up to try and help Jamie come to terms with his death, while his interaction makes everyone around him — including his mother Linda (Liv Tyler) — start to question Adam’s sanity.

If you’re looking for a modern day version of The Devil’s Backbone reimagined by Larry Clark, then Jamie Marks Is Dead is the film for you. Between the dry humping, oral sex, and teenage pubic hair — if the film is picked up for distribution — cuts will be made. While Carter Smith may be aiming for teenage authenticity, it’s probably going to be a little much for the MPAA. But I’m not quite sure who the film is made for, aside from maybe fans of the book.

A few things happen that might make sense in written form are eye-rollingly awkward on film. Jamie keeps asking Adam to whisper words into his ear which seem to have an orgasmic effect on him, but we’re never told why Jamie wants to hear these really sweet-nothings. Smith does do a good job of keeping things moody and brooding, but unfortunately, atmosphere alone does not make a good movie. Jamie Marks Is Dead isn’t a complete wash, but a more appropriate title might be Jamie Marks Is Bleh.

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.