Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Noemie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Bastien Bouillon, Sam Louwyck, Tracy Dossou, Jonathan Bartholmé
Written by: Zoé Wittock
Directed by: Zoé Wittock
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 93
Date: 02/19/2021
IMDB

Jumbo (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Girl Meets Whirl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Get ready for this: the French film Jumbo tells the story of a young woman and her love affair with a carnival ride.

Noémie Merlant (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) stars as the misfit Jeanne, with her Amelie-like hairstyle, who builds spinning, lit-up models of carnival rides in her bedroom.

She works the night shift at an amusement park, cleaning and picking up trash, and seemingly happy at not having to deal with people.

When her spunky, saucy mom Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot) tries to set Jeanne up with her boss at the park, Marc (Bastien Bouillon), she balks. And when Margarette takes a new boyfriend, the calm, thoughtful Hubert (Sam Louwyck), Jeanne storms off to her room.

So at the park, while polishing the many colored lights on a whirling ride called "Move It," she begins to feel something. The ride responds to her, and moves for her, and even prevents her from falling from its heights.

Jeanne is ecstatically happy, but of course, Margarette is less than thrilled. And, as in life, the movie becomes a battle between the "you can't do that" and the "why not?" camps.

Jumbo — the nickname that Jeanne gives her new friend — is fairly subversive, especially in a strange "sex" scene involving oozing black machine oil, but in other ways, it doesn't really go very far.

Movies like Lars and the Real Girl and Her used their strange romances with non-organic objects to explore deeper emotional themes, while Jumbo simply asserts that the heart wants what it wants, and that's OK.

Writer and director Zoé Wittock, who makes her feature debut here, brings a wonderfully naïve, awestruck mood to the movie. It's probably no mistake that Jeanne's hairstyle resembles Amelie's; they're both wide-eyed observers of life's small mysteries and wonders.

A carnival is perhaps the perfect place for Jeanne, as she is able to look past the trash and sleaze and see it the way it's intended to be seen: a place of magic.

Jumbo is available Friday for $12 in virtual cinemas, and will receive a VOD and DVD release on March 16, 2021.

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