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DIRECTED BY: Kelley Kali
FEATURING: Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Shannon Woodward, Shein Mompremier
PLOT: A young art curator who is having mysterious blackouts and confused memories meets a potential girlfriend who seems too good to be true.
COMMENTS: Billie is a stunning, smart, lithe second-generation Haitian with a chic job at an upscale art gallery. Her periodic blackouts and memory lapses—which she suspects may be a result of very early onset Alzheimer’s—must make her a pain to be around; that’s the only possible explanation as to how she could have any problem landing, and keeping, a high-class girlfriend. She does have minor but unexplained sores on her thigh, and she does tend to go into a fugue state whenever a voodoo priest accosts her while jogging, but other than that, she’s a prize. So thinks Alex, who comes on to her with a smooth, practiced approach, buying Billie a glass of expensive wine when she spots her alone at a Little Haiti bar—multiple times, because Billie never remembers their last meeting. Is Alex merely taking advantage of Billie’s neurological condition, or is something even more sinister going on?
The fractured first act grabs your attention for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of Jagged Mind‘s runtime, but unfortunately, the script doesn’t capitalize on this strong setup. Let’s face it, Groundhog Day was three decades ago, and the “time loop” plot device is now approaching the point of cliché. It takes some real inspiration to find a new angle on it, and Jagged Mind isn’t up to the challenge. One major problem is that the movie drops in its twist at an awkward juncture, about midway through, meaning there is no guesswork left for the final act. People hoping for a twisty psychological thriller will find that the mystery resolves too quickly, while the opening is too baffling for those expecting a popcorny horror-thriller. Furthermore, the mechanics of the plot device are illogical: for one thing, it’s not satisfactorily explained why Billie, specifically, must solve the paradox herself rather than, say, the apparently competent voodoo priest. It gets less satisfying the longer it goes on.
Having said that, while it’s not exactly good, Jagged Mind is nowhere near as bad as its 4.3 rating on IMDb might suggest. The script is weak, but the film is made quite competently, with the cinematography (capturing Miami’s neon glow and Little Haiti’s colorful charm), the editing, and Woodward’s villainous turn coming close to being standouts. The central relationship is presented believably, and it addresses serious issues. The sapphic element is sexy but not exploitative; lesbians should enjoy seeing themselves as central characters in a horror movie, but straights will not feel alienated (or titillated) in any way. There’s a lot of promise here that doesn’t get capitalized on, but Jagged Mind is a workmanlike entry that fits into its value-added free-on-Hulu slot: the kind of thing you can watch on an impulse and not feel cheated (which you might if you paid good money for it). It’s the kind of movie you might watch once, then catch again later because you’ve totally forgotten you saw it.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Presenting a potentially fractious relationship by way of a fractured narrative, the story and technique of Jagged Mind are much more intriguing on a theoretical level than they are in practice. “–Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies (contemporaneous)