Gere's stellar performance rescues flawed Mr. JonesMr Jones
Directed by Michael Figgis.
Starring Richard Gere and Lena Olin.
By Patrick Mahoney
In Mr. Jones, a new release from Tri-Star pictures, Richard Gere plays Mr. Jones, a mentally ill individual suffering from extreme bouts of euphoria and depression. Elizabeth, played by Lena Olin, is his psychiatrist who helps him deal with his problem and falls in love with him in the process. Mr. Jones portrays the development of Gere and the relationship between Gere and Olin.
The opening scene sets the stage for the movie. We follow Gere as he gets a job working on rebuilding a roof. Gere climbs up to the very top while talking about his long-standing desire to fly. He even asks a coworker about whether he'd ever considered trying to fly. Immediately we are led to believe that Gere is suicidal and that he is going to kill himself. But as the story progresses we find that this is not that case, and that "flying" is Gere's freedom. He admits that he needs his highs, that he has become addicted to them. He resists changing because he wants to be himself. He repeatedly states that he is not normal, and that he does not want to be normal, he wants to be himself.
Gere's acting is superb. He plays the part to the maximum. Nothing that Gere does in the opening part of the movie is without flamboyance and energy. We are taken from one scene to another, with him portraying Jones' "grandiose" personality. Gere makes us believe him, and it does not seem like he is putting on a show or simply playing a part. Everything is so energetically done that we cannot help but believe him completely.
Olin's performance holds its own, but unfortunately she is dwarfed by Gere. Her character lacks spice. Perhaps that is partly the fault of the script, but I believe that at times she could have done a lot more to add to the character. She is normal, and unfortunately normal just isn't as interesting as grandiose. The only time that we see any emotion, either happy or sad, is at the very end. But by then it is too late because our attention has already shifted away from her.
The story does an excellent job of linking Gere's attempts to fly with his feeling of freedom. Over the course of the film we see him fluctuate between happy and sad, with the latter always occurring in the hospital. His admitting to needing the highs come at a time when he is in the hospital taking his drugs, just like he is supposed to do. Gere often returns to the idea of flying, and asks Olin if she ever dreamt of flying. We see that his happiness, his view of freedom, and his desire to fly are all the same and when denied them he sinks into a well of depression.
The plot of the film is very straightforward. It does not give any really big surprises, but at the same time we do not get bored because we are too busy watching Gere's changes. The movies does have its predictable spots. I must admit that a couple of times I saw a line coming from a mile away, but they were still funny. So why was the movie so good if it wasn't for the plot? Because the real focus of the film was Gere and his changing. Some might say that it was about Gere and Olin, and the relationship that they formed, but it's not. Simply put it is about him, and his tenuous grip on reality. She is just the person who forces him to realize that he can be free without having to fly.
The movie is about mental illness, and I must admit that it does not address that problem very well. It glosses over much of what is being done for Gere, and we are left slightly confused about his progress or why he changes the way that he does. I think that the movie could have spent a little bit more time developing his change in order to add credibility to the ending.
I would recommend seeing the movie. If for nothing else, see it for the performance of Gere, which is one of his best and most convincing.