The Political Toss Up: Our Review of ‘Lord Jones is Dead’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 24, 2016
The Political Toss Up: Our Review of ‘Lord Jones is Dead’


Think Waiting For Godot in South Africa, or Waiting For Someone Who May Or May Not Be The Mistress Of A Politician. That’s the premise of the South African and Canadian film Lord Jones is Dead, adapted from Matthew Clayfield’s play of the same name. The people doing the waiting are Vincent (Daniel Janks), Clive (Jonathan Pienaar) and Samuel (Chad Krowchuk), two Johannesburg-based ‘journalists’ and a photographer assigned to stake out the said mistress, allegedly cowering in her own home. All the other journalists the city are waiting in front of the politician’s house, and as much as the story makes it seem like the three protagonists are in the wrong place, in retrospect it’s more of a toss up. They wait for the same amount of time that the batter in my phone runs out, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this aspect of the film’s premise.

Lord Jones is Dead sets the tone of being a comedy through the whimsical musical intro. Even the yellow font promises the kind of a good time you’d expect from a throwback B-film. So then it’s up to the dialogue to contain something funny or the actors to polish whatever flat turd that they have to work with. Yes, the actors try their hardest to do the latter, working with the ambiguous language that comes with selling their kind of story. They also have bits about cellphones and a clunky musical number in the middle of the film. A satire about the newspaper industry could either be hard hitting or light – Clayfield mostly chooses the latter but either option can end up being unwatchable.

The satire here is grounded on the cynical perspective towards journalism, which is a viewpoint I don’t necessarily share. Mind you, I don’t have a Sorkinian idealism towards the ethics of news, I am too young and somehow too old for that kind of optimism. My kind of cynicism is towards the cyclical nature of news and the apathy of some of the people in power who end up being the subjects of these reports, that both consumer and writer are on this perpetual loop. Clayfield’s kind of cynicism is that it’s all sensational tabloid stuff, cliches stuck between car ads. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I just read a newspaper this morning and it was very informative. We’re even at this point of our culture where anyone can make anything smart, even the Kardashians.

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The journalists are staking out in front of the alleged woman’s alleged house, wearing blazers and scarves despite of the forty degree weather, because of an anonymous tip. I have friends and acquaintances in different levels of prestige in that industry and none of them would ever agree to spend a whole day on something that shady. This feels like a contrivance that makes the film’s stage play roots and Beckett references too obvious. Theatre has evolved past its claustrophobic roots and better playwrights and screenwriters have made the singular setting more dynamic than this.

Stuck with leftovers, the only other characters of importance on the film are people we hear about. They’re either on the other side of a phone call or talked about in the film. They’re as imaginary as the alleged mistress. We also get Samuel being jealous of one of the journalists who been assigned to cover the minister’s house instead of the mistress’. Krowchuk’s excellent delivery of the story between him and that unseen newspaperwoman does not trump the fact that we can see this narrative a mile away. This is the second Canadian film I’ve seen about people in the general arts whose jealousy either makes them victims or victimizers of sabotage. Two is ok, and I don’t mind either seeing another movie containing that theme or writing it myself. And then I want a moratorium on the subject matter or any other subject matter that this movie touches.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.

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