A small town, a single-parent household, and two cousins brought together by an unfortunate twist of fate. That is the premise of Felix Thompson’s King Jack. In the Director’s Statement, Thompson claims he wanted “to tell the story of the secret childhood that our parents didn’t see.” The execution was not entirely successful.
King Jack tells the story of 15-year-old Jack – an outsider in a small town and thus, the perfect target for bullies. Jack’s missing father labeled him a “king”, but most people refer to him as “scab”, including his brother. When Jack’s cousin Ben comes to stay with the family for a weekend after an accident, Jack does his best to hide his poor reputation. Yet, like everything else in his life, fate doesn’t give him a break.
From the start, King Jack makes clear that it is striving to fit into the indie mainstream. Meaning: there is extensive use of a handheld camera, a great soundtrack, and focus on the life of an outsider. Furthermore – in keeping with genre convention – this is more about experience than message. There are no great lessons to be learned, but rather a memory-making weekend with a distant cousin. So, while Felix Thompson is successful with his thesis of depicting “our unseen childhood”, his film seriously suffers from narrative banality.
The real problem with King Jack is strict adherence to a genre – namely, mainstream indie films. Thus, fans of this genre will find the movie another pleasing chronicle of a young outsider. Yet, what makes it different from any other independent movie? Hardly anything. Fault is less with Felix Thompson, though, and more with the institution that instructed the young director – Sundance Labs. The mentorship program assists aspiring filmmakers with fleshing out their ideas. However, as seen with projects like this one, the Independent-minded Lab is producing films that look a lot like the mainstream Hollywood films they try to get away from.
King Jack is released at select theaters on April 17th 2015.