The basic idea behind the narrative of James Cullen Bressack’s To Jennifer is that we’re watching a recording that is being put together by Joey (Chuck Pappas) to give to his long distance girlfriend, Jennifer (Jessica Cameron), to show her that he has proof of her infidelity, and all problems in their relationship are because of her. To this end, he recruits his cousin, Steven (James Cullen Bressack), to come along with him as he travels to visit Jennifer and record proof of his fears. Along the way the duo film practically everything, including Joey having a freakout on a plane, which forces them to reconsider their plan for getting to Jennifer’s.
Thus enters Steven’s friend Martin (Jody Barton), who has a car, and is brought in to drive the duo now that they can’t fly. Things are never that easy, or that straightforward, however, and the camera captures all. Perhaps more than Joey wants.
To Jennifer is the type of feature film that would work far better as a tightly edited short film. The reasons being that the film has some interesting ideas within its narrative, and even moments of true suspense when we start to question that Joey might not be altogether telling the truth (or even altogether sane), but they’re spread out due to the “almost always filming” concept of the film. Instead of capitalizing on the film’s moments of strength, it takes the risk that you’ll find the general adventures of our trio interesting enough to fill the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
Watching Joey get upset that the group is getting to Jennifer’s becomes repetitive, as does the delaying behaviors of Martin and the commentary of Steven. For example, one sequence takes place when the trio, on the road for only an hour, pulls over at a shady motel to rest. Even Joey finds the decision suspect, since they’ve barely been on the road, and the moment fails for me too. While an important narrative event does happen in conjunction with their motel stopover, it’s a small part of a longer sequence that seems forced and doesn’t do the film’s momentum any favors.
As a short film though, you could have a lot of fun with the narrative, moving the action forward rapidly while building the suspense with creativity in the cutting; it would be okay to create something somewhat disorienting, if you hit with your best punches. By the time you realize how intense an experience you’ve been brought into, the film could be over. It’d be something powerful and memorable. As it is, though, it’s drawn out and pretty “meh.”
And ultimately that’s where I stand with To Jennifer. As a feature, the concept isn’t executed in a strong enough way to keep it interesting from start to finish. It comes across realistic to its ideas, that you’re watching footage from a camera that was almost always running, like a video diary/travelogue of sorts, but think about how much fun that would be to watch. It tries to elevate itself, but it succeeds in glimpses, and can’t sustain its momentum.
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