Jayne Mansfield’s Car Blu-ray Review

     Writers: Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Epperson
  • Format: Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Anchor Bay
  • Release Date: December 10, 2013
  • Run Time: 122 minutes


            After the major critical and financial success of Sling Blade, Billy Bob Thornton’s filmmaking debut, he paired with Miramax and the Weinstein brothers to make his sophomore feature, All the Pretty Horses. That experience was such a debacle that it took Thornton over a decade to return to the role of writer/director, with infamous stories of Weinstein control being the reason for the film’s failure. Jayne Mansfield’s Car has some spectacular moments, most of which Thornton gives to himself, but it could have used a little more focus and direction. There must be a happy medium between the Weinstein’s way and Thornton’s tendency to over-indulge, but it was not found in this film.


            The story follows the unlikely pairing of two families in a wholly unique situation. These narratives are very often found in wedding films, when two different families are forced to endure and appreciate the nature of someone else’s ways. Jayne Mansfield’s Car instead uses a funeral, and the two families have specific reasons to have never met before. Jim Caldwell (Robert Duvall) is the patriarch to a large southern family living in Alabama in 1969 when he receives word that his ex-wife has died. Having left him for a new family in England married to Kingsley Bedford (John Hurt), Jim never remarried and hasn’t fully recovered from the loss. When he hears that his ex-wife’s request was to be buried in Alabama, Jim grudgingly invites her new family into his home for the funeral. 


            What makes this film good also seems to be at the detriment to the whole of the narrative, with Thornton’s focus very obviously on the acting over any cohesive storyline. With a basic premise to pull the film together, this is a movie with many performances. We know we are watching actors and are meant to marvel as they show the skills they have in this craft. There are endless sub-plots within the film, including a few oddly incestual love affairs, but the film is mostly just a compilation of compelling scenes with great acting and no purpose. At over two-hours long, this can be a bit trying for the viewer, despite the occasional rewards.


            The Blu-ray release includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, which is not much. There is so much talent involved in this film. A commentary track with even half of them would have been amazing, but the additional features show the confidence in this film’s fan base. 




    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10

    Historical Significance: 5/10

    Disc Features: 4/10



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