The Orbit of Remoteness

Janet Planet revolves around the orbit of its own main character.

We are seeing the narrative through the eyes of the awkward daughter of Janet, until the end when we shift to the point-of-view of the Planet herself. Julianne Nicholson as Janet Planet,a single mother, displays a lifetime of emotional memory in just a few minutes.

Janet Planet propels the audience through what seems to be a handful of relationships as experienced by Janet.

Her daughter Lacy (Zoe Ziegler in a stunning debut role) may be going through a hard time young adult wise yet there’s also a sort of innocent interpretation of the events unfolding in the household. One boyfriend (an arrogant Will Patton) has issues that even Janet’s therapeutic use of acupuncture can’t sustain.

Elias Koteas whom I did not recognize until the closing credits plays the leader of a neo-hippie commune. Sophie Okonedo plays another short term roommate whose distant manner leaves little doubt as to why she’s asked to leave.

Everyone in the film seems to be going through some kind of identity crisis, and that’s the coolest thing about Janet Planet. Finally a film that celebrates uncertainty as the thematic spine.

Janet Planet has weird framing. There are entire scenes that while they make sense have an abstract framing that cuts off facial recognition.

Two of the best scenes are a mom-daughter bonding conversation about sexuality, filmed with frank dialogue and a sense of growth. The other has mom and daughter killing a large although probably benevolent creature that has invaded their home. (I know what I do when a cockroach breeches my security border.) It involves screams of fear and flushes of death.

On a side note spurred by an interest in cultural happenstance it seems that this film’s title has nothing to do with Janet Planet and her collaboration with Van Morrison during the 1970s. Janet Plant was the lead back-up singer on Tupelo Honey and pictured on the art throughout that LP. On Moondance Planet writes a fable transcribed on the inner fold of that LP.

After all, there was an entire award winning film titled Belfast that was scored with wall-to-wall Van Morrison songs.

The movie Janet Planet, set in the early 1990s, has nothing to do with that particular person and yet Nicholson seems cut from the same bolt of cloth as the progressive healing vibe portrayed in the images and sounds of those records.

Janet Planet is now playing in select theaters.

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