Review / ‘Jasper Jones’ (M) ** and a half

CRAIG Silvey’s first novel to become a feature film had box office potential and Rachel Perkins’ direction of it is competent enough.

But Shaun Grant’s adaptation of its story about the community’s reaction in the small town of Corrigin in WA, when the Mayor’s older daughter goes missing, is clunky.

Some of Mark Wareham’s cinematography falls short of expectations, particularly night sequences filmed in daylight through a filter showing clear demarcation of shadows and light.

Jasper, a part-Aboriginal boy not greatly admired in Corrigin, knocks on Charlie Bucktin’s bedroom window and persuades Charlie to accompany him to see something dreadful. It’s Laura’s corpse hanging from a tree. Shock horror indeed. Only the two boys know where they’ve hidden it. Charlie’s mother Ruth, clearly dissatisfied with insufficient connubial comfort from her teacher husband, who retires after the evening meal to work on his novel, is over-protective of the lad. Laura’s sister Eliza asks Charlie to keep her copy of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” with a do-not-read note inside.

There’s a bit of mystery about an old bloke living alone in a farmhouse. At the town’s New Year’s Eve fireworks Charlie catches Ruth in the back of her car making hanky panky with the police sergeant. His dad asks him to read the finished novel. Jasper’s forebears get revealed. Laura’s body doesn’t get found but the backstory to her death gets told.

Jasper’s involvement in telling the story is less than Charlie’s, which makes me wonder why the story is named for Jasper. They’re played by, respectively, Aaron McGrath and Levi Miller. Toni Collette’s Ruth makes a meal of what some might call schizophrenia. Dan Wyllie is Charlie’s stolid dad. Angourie Rice is Eliza. Hugo Weaving is the old bloke in the farmhouse.

The actors do their best, but the translation of book to screen is short of what they deserve.

At Dendy, Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Limelight

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