Two Dutch twin sisters who are the very definition of “yin and yang” take their American surrogate mother on a femmes-only road trip in Antoinette Beumer’s “Jackie.” Affable perfs from Holly Hunter and Carice van Houten ensure an enjoyable ride, though the screenplay succeeds only very late in the game in using the genre’s obligatory road stops as believable conduits for character change. Shot in photogenic New Mexico, and partly in English, this local B.O. hit could interest arthouse-lite distribs.
Dark-haired Sofie (Carice van Houten) and blonde Daan (Carice’s real-life actress sister, Jelka) are twins who rarely make time for one another. An early dinner scene in which they visit their gay dads (Paul Hoes, Jaap Spijkers) makes the sisters’ oil-and-water differences quite clear: Sofie, a magazine editor, is so busy with her career that she doesn’t have time for a man, while Daan, who’s married to the desperate-for-children Joost (Jeroen Spitzenberger), is her total opposite, looking to please everyone but herself.
When their surrogate mother, Jackie (Hunter), is admitted to a Stateside hospital, an unexpected call for help from the institution’s staff means the daughters have the opportunity to finally meet the woman who gave birth to them in the ’70s. The more family-oriented Daan jumps at the opportunity, though predictably, Sofie is less thrilled to meet her “womb donor.”
The film’s feeble excuse for a trip-a-trois in Jackie’s rusty old camper is the fact that she can’t fly (because of a pierced eardrum) and can’t drive (her leg is in a cast), and needs to be taken to a New Mexico rehabilitation center. There’s some perfunctory protest from the verbally feisty Sofie, but this is the kind of film where the characters’ resistance to genre cliches is futile, marring the story’s plausibility as well as its rhythm. While on the road, Internet and phone connections die on cue, snakes rattle, and rednecks of various levels of unpleasantness come a-calling while the siblings get to know each other and the initially not-very-communicative stranger who is their mother.
Written by scribes Karen van Holst Pellekaan and Marnie Blok (the writing duo behind Beumer’s “The Happy Housewife,” also with van Houten), the screenplay initially seems less an organic story than a reshuffling of past road-movie moments, with the music by Wiegel, Meirmans and Snitker helpfully suggesting whether a scene is meant to be humorous (guitar) or melancholy (piano). But as the trip approaches its final destination and a terrific twist — which, if placed earlier, could have given the pic much more original material to explore — “Jackie” finally relaxes into something credible and affecting.
This is in large part due to the actresses, with Carice van Houten clearly having fun with her character’s nonstop barrage of colorful complaints and, not surprisingly, carrying on a convincing sisterly rapport with Jelka van Houten (two years younger in real life). The leather-faced Hunter, initially stuck in an aggressive and mostly mute role, also registers quite movingly by the closing reels.
Shooting on location in gorgeous New Mexico (thanks to tax-rebate advice from Beumer’s own actress sister, Famke Janssen), Belgian d.p. Danny Elsen makes good use of wide shots and closeups for scenic reasons as well as the occasional punchline. The rest of the tech package is boho-chic.