Welcome to the first of a new segment here at Widescreen, looking at DTV or ‘direct to video’ content.
Regular readers of my personal review site Funerals & Snakes will know that I have an aversion to the actress Katherine Heigl. Parlaying some TV fame (from Grey’s Anatomy) into a brief feature film career in romantic and action comedies, her time at the top was limited by some poor choices and a reputation for being a little bit difficult to work with. Her last appearance on a local big screen was in the star-studded ensemble comedy New Year’s Eve but a recent film called Jackie & Ryan has caused me to look at La Heigl once again.
She plays a former country-pop star (“Jackie”), now down on her luck and living with her mother in rural Utah while a toxic divorce back in New York threatens to take everything she has – including adorable little poppet daughter Lia (Played by Emily Alyn Lind). In town one day, she meets talented drifter/busker Ben Barnes (“Ryan”) whose mastery of the country blues should mark him out for Americana stardom if he wasn’t more intent on riding the rails from town to town, putting down no roots.
The cover of this Blu-ray was not encouraging – leading the unsuspecting to suppose that they are about to watch a ‘made-for-TV’ romance – but against all the odds at our house we found the film quite ingratiating, mainly because of writer/director Ami Canaan Mann’s sure hand, strong characters and good music. Turns out she is the daughter of Michael Mann (The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Collateral) and, while not yet the stylist that he is, she should definitely be on that list of female directors that should get more work in Hollywood.
Barnes completely convinced us as an idealistic young folkie and it was a complete surprise to find out he was once Prince Caspian. Heigl was good too and I’m as amazed as anyone.
Jackie & Ryan is distributed in New Zealand by Defiant/Madman and is available for streaming on iTunes.