Edward Furlong's eyes possess a uniquely mischievous quality. It's as if he knows something you don't.
That sense of mischief permeates nearly every frame of Jimmy and Judy, a low-budget piece of mayhem that leaves one queasy amid its raw emotions and minimal, viscerally invasive formal techniques. The film opens locally on Friday.
Jimmy (Furlong) has psychological issues. His parents ignore him, as does nearly every other denizen of his suburban Northern Kentucky town. (The film was shot in Florence and other area locations, though that's never overtly stated.)
He spends his aimless days capturing images with his video camera, which seems to be his best (and possibly only) friend. He tapes things most would deem inappropriate: visits to his shrink, his parents' whacked sex life and, most importantly, Judy (Rachel Bella), a beautiful yet troubled high school senior whom, unbeknownst to her, Jimmy has pined over for years.
Things change when he finally reveals his devotion to her by enacting playful revenge on a trio of bullies who humiliated Judy at school.
She's impressed — no one has done such a "romantic" thing for her — and it's not long before the two become inseparable, embarking on a relationship that soon spirals out of control amid a flurry of violence, sex, drugs and fast food.
Written and directed by Randall K. Rubin and Northern Kentucky native Jon Schroder, Jimmy and Judy has a unique trick up its sleeve: Its footage is delivered via Jimmy's video camera, a fact at once intimate and exhausting. Think The Blair Witch Project with a pair of angst-ridden, dangerously co-dependent teenagers behind the camera.
Schroder — who attended Covington Catholic High School and Eastern Kentucky University before starting his career in New York City — wrote the film during a particularly frustrating period.
"I was completely broke at the time, and just prior to that I had a very bad experience with a producer who essentially had me write a movie and then just jerked the project from right underneath me due to some ego conflicts between managers and agents," he says, speaking by phone from California. "So to say the least there was a lot of angst buildup at the time."
That feeling was funneled into the character of Jimmy, an iconoclastic, emotionally imbalanced smart-ass with fatalistic tendencies.
"Jimmy was the kind of guy who does stuff that you have in the back of your mind but you would have the common sense or just respect for society not to do certain things," Schroder says. "Jimmy is a character that really has no limits. I sort of reverted back to the 17-year-old inside of me that's just pissed off at all the teachers and felt helpless."
Schroder was intent on doing things independently this time around, even if that meant making the movie without recognizable actors and filming it in and around his hometown. The project took an unforeseen turn when a copy of the script found its way to Furlong, an intuitive actor best known for his work in James Cameron's T2 as well as American History X, Little Odessa and Pecker.
"When we originally came up with the script, I specifically wrote it to film in Cincinnati," Schroder says. "I had some people in mind, mostly friends and family, but never in my wildest imagination did I think I'd get somebody along the lines and caliber of talent as Eddie Furlong."
Furlong carries the film past its less effective moments — the handheld camerawork can become wearisome at times — fearlessly inhabiting Jimmy with a rare, raw-nerved vulnerability. His ample chemistry with Bella only enhances the effect, a fact borne out in the pair's willingness to reveal themselves both emotionally and physically.
"There's scene where Eddie's walking around naked at a cocktail party," Schroder says. "After he saw the original footage, and I guess he realized Randall and I knew what the fuck we were doing, he had no fear. Neither did Rachel.
"Their chemistry really helped. I think Eddie brought out the best in Rachel. They were always together on set. They were inseparable off set. There was something that happened right after the second week when they had to kiss for the first time on camera. You could tell this was more than a movie kiss. This was a Ross and Rachel moment. This wasn't a Friends moment. This was a real, heartfelt kiss."
The film's first-person approach required long, unedited takes. And while it gives Jimmy and Judy an unnerving realism, it was also daunting for everyone involved.
"At first it was intimidating," Schroder says. "But once the actors got into the flow of it, especially Eddie and Rachel, they really rose to the occasion and the challenge of it. The scene where he's going through the Dixie Chili drive thru, that's three pages of dialogue. I don't know if the Guinness Book of World Records has a record for that, but I would like to submit Eddie for consideration."
Schroder knows that Jimmy and Judy's visceral nature — both in content and technique — will have a strong effect on audiences.
"One thing I've noticed is that, since we're giving the illusion that everything is captured on home video, the violence and everything else becomes so real and so intense that it's an overload for some people," he says. "You feel voyeuristic. You feel like you're watching something that you're not supposed to be watching: This is the property of someone's personal life." ©