Favourites here at Screen Critix, Stacey Stone and Diane Mellen return with another short documentary, this time focusing on a comedian called Jack. Check out our review.
Often, we forget that documentaries can have more to them than being sombre, sad, dark and harrowing. In the eyes of most, verisimilitude is key, and creative “leeway” is disregarded as disingenuous and unnecessary. In some, if not most cases, this is true: through the art form of documentary, audiences are often allowed insights into candid, less-explored, perhaps controversial walks of life, and when concerning topical and delicate subjects such as these, the aforementioned approach is wholeheartedly warranted.
However, director Stacey Stone subverts these ideas in various ways, more pertinently in her latest release, Jack. Jack runs just over 12 minutes long, and gives us a strong, assured and confident insight into an interesting and relatable character; the cornerstones of any good documentary.
The film is about a regular man whose passion is to be a stand-up comedian – or more specifically – to make people laugh. He succeeds at this, as we see in excerpts of his stage performances, but is held back by his inner lack of confidence and a hatred of himself. On the side, Jack runs a dog walking business, and in his heart of hearts, doesn’t believe he is as good at what he does as he is. Jack is a really well-executed documentary, suffering only from its length and thus a lack of exploration into Jack himself that would be super interesting. Though it’s super refreshing and incredibly emotive to hear Jack declare the hatred of himself and what that does to his confidence, I’d love to see more of his journey, and explore what exactly it is that made him feel this way in the first place and also why he decided that standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people was the catharsis he thought he needed. This is touched upon, but not fully explored, and the idea of his anxiety thwarting his love of making people laugh should cover a lot more ground than it does. Perhaps, a slightly expanded structure would allow for more scope and character exploring, thus allowing us to get to know Jack even better.
Having said this, Jack benefits in other areas. Whilst it may not succeed 100% in presenting a comedian who hates himself, Jack succeeds in showing us the life of a man who balances stage life with real life: specifically, Jack’s dog walking business. There’s a scene (my favourite scene in fact) where Jack explains that to the audience that he tries out new jokes on the dogs he’s walking that week. This is played out literally, with various shots of dogs on the lawn watching his act. It’s a beautiful and humorous scene, and depicts perfectly Stone’s understanding of narrative and constructed reality’s importance in something non-fictional. For a documentary on comedy, there’s a lot of focus on jokes and laughter, and it’s perhaps this factor that made me connect with the film as much as I did.
Conclusively, Jack is an original, inventive, heart-filled documentary, focusing on someone who seems to be genuine and interesting. It’s a super well-made movie, which benefits from a clear devotion to the subject material, with an abundance of heart and soul. Whilst the documentary may benefit from a re-jig of structure, content, and an overall extension of what we get to hear and see from Jack himself, what exists right now is a strong look into the life of a man with a desire to make people happy: to make them laugh. This extends into the film, so as far as I’m concerned, Jack has achieved his goal.