Two years ago, identical twins Michael and Mark Polish made a striking feature debut with "Twin Falls, Idaho," in which they cast themselves as Siamese twins as a way of exploring the alternating yearning for dependence and independence within all human relationships. As P.T. Barnum might have remarked, it's a hard act to follow, and their "Jackpot" suffers from a classic case of second-film letdown.
"Jackpot" has much that is sweet and funny, but it is not overly original--and it is overly long and not as coherent as it might be. The Polish brothers remain most promising filmmakers, certainly, but they need to guard against self-indulgence and to remain risk takers.
Jon Gries and Garrett Morris star, respectively, as a wannabe country-western star and his manager, who books Gries' Sunny Holiday on a nine-month tour of 43 karaoke lounges in small towns throughout the West. The wiry, personable Sunny hasn't a bad voice and even has a little stage presence, but he's always performing as someone else--George Jones is his hero. Yet Morris' Les is forever pumping him full of sunshine, promising him stardom for sure if he'll just be patient and gain experience and a following on the tour.
Neither of these mutual self-deluders ever considers that Sunny would have to develop his own style and material if he wants a real shot at stardom.
There's something endearing about these dogged naifs, but their adventures on the road are so predictable and stretched out that the two tend to wear out their welcome after a while.
"Jackpot," which experiments effectively with digital technology in its shooting, has the feel of a film that was probably more fun to make than it is to watch. Gries and Morris are in themselves amusing, and there's good work from Darryl Hannah as Sunny's wife, irate at him for deserting her and their small daughter in pursuit of what she with good reason dismisses as nonsense.
Peggy Lipton is one of the women who offer Sunny hospitality and more; Rick Overton is Sunny's attorney brother, and Anthony Edwards--yes, that Anthony Edwards--is another brother, a feckless motel owner.
As amiable as it is, "Jackpot," which takes its title from the Nevada town, doesn't pay off.
MPAA rating: R, for language and some sexuality. Times guidelines: language, adult themes and situations.
Jon Gries: Sunny Holiday
Garrett Morris: Lester Irving
Darryl Hannah: Bobbi
Peggy Lipton: Janice
A Sony Pictures Classics release. Director Michael Polish. Writers-producers Mark and Michael Polish. Co-producers Jon Gries, Michael Huens. Executive producers James Egan, Marlise Karlin. Cinematographer M. David Mullin. Editor Shawna Callahan. Music Stuart Matthewman. Music supervisor Jonathan Daniel. Costumes Bic Owen. Production designer Michelle Montague. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
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