SXSW Film Review: Jean of the Joneses

A witty directorial debut hints at big things to come

Stella Meghie’s feature debut as writer/director suggests an exciting new voice. Highly visually controlled, snappily edited, and beautifully acted, Jean of the Joneses is a clever New York comedy about the Caribbean diaspora. It’s easy to see Meghie as the yin to Tyler Perry’s yang.

The Joneses are passive-aggressive second and third generation women, all struggling with relationship baggage. Jean (Taylour Paige, mischievous), the youngest, is a stunted novelist breaking up with her dissatisfied boyfriend (François Arnaud). Her mother (Sherri Shepherd) and grandmother (Michelle Hurst) berate her for her wallowing, entitlement, and general malaise. They do the same to Jean’s sisters, Anne (Erica Ash) and Janet (Gloria Reuben) – each of whose lives is crumbling under the same pressures as Jean’s.

Meghie sets this ensemble into a nasty dynamic: as self-assured intellectuals, the Joneses are exclusionary of outsiders and cruel to one another. But they are extremely funny, too, and the script delivers choice monologues and breakdowns, with Reuben’s and Hurst’s especially moving.

The filmmaker composes scenes in spacious long-shots so the actors can gesticulate wildly and be mobile with their bodies. With this choice, Meghie’s strongest contribution is clear: She provides the characters, most of whom are women of color, agency over the frame.


Jean of the Joneses

Narrative Spotlight, World Premiere
Wednesday, March 16, 4:15pm, Alamo Ritz

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
ATX Television Festival Goes From Small Screen to Big Screen to Small Screen Again
ATX Television Festival Goes From Small Screen to Big Screen to Small Screen Again
How the celebration of TV is leading the way in streaming fests as it becomes ATX TV ... From the Couch!

Richard Whittaker, June 5, 2020

Now Streaming in Austin: <i>Mr. Roosevelt</i>
Now Streaming in Austin: Mr. Roosevelt
Noël Wells proves you probably shouldn't go home

Richard Whittaker, May 30, 2020

More by Sean L. Malin
Louis Black Takes Richard Linklater Doc to PBS
Louis Black Takes Richard Linklater Doc to PBS
dream is destiny airs on American Masters

Sept. 1, 2017

Totally Total Providence
Totally Total Providence
Animator Paul Beck presents A Scanner Darkly at Alamo Drafthouse Mueller

Aug. 25, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW 2016, SXSW Film 2016, SXSW, Jean of the Joneses

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle