I honestly don’t even know where to start with this one. How do you review anything by Alan Moore, much less a short film he’s written? The guy’s a genius. I’m not simply saying that he’s like, super cool and I really dig his work or whatever, which he certainly is and I certainly do. But as far as I can tell he actually is a genius. He’s not just the Shakespeare or John Lennon of comic books, he’s practically a contemporary Leonardo da Vinci. He’s a living myth. At least as far as I’m concerned.
How do you review anything by a guy like that? How do you put yourself out there and say, “I would have done this particular thing differently,” about something he’s written? Watchmen is my sole criterion for a perfect, 5-star, 10-out-of-10 comic, and he’s written better comics than that. Basically, if I notice any deficiencies at all in any of his work, the deficiency is clearly with me instead, right? A goofball like me does not deserve to critique this man’s output, is what I’m saying.
That said, let’s just try it anyway. Spoilers from this point on, by the way.
First of all, Jimmy’s End is preceded by another short film, a sort of prologue, called Act of Faith. I suppose this is because Alan Moore is the kind of guy who writes 750,000 word novels about his hometown, so he’s not going to do a short film unless it’s really two films that total more than an hour in length.
It is an entire one act story written around the character of Faith Harrington, who turns up later in Jimmy’s End. I actually watched this twice before proceeding to Jimmy’s, and the second time around I was able to pick out little things that kind of annoyed me about it. Her name is Faith and she’s a journalist who’s looking into the secrets of some kind of deceased religious figure. She has a CD by the band Faith No More. Those kinds of things kinda bugged me. Stuff that’s really on the nose, too on-the-nose for what I’d expect from Moore.
But then you start to figure out what she’s doing. Why she’d called about a paramedic costume she ordered for someone else to pick up, a seemingly innocuous detail at first. Many of Moore’s stories feature characters with fetishes or sexual hang-ups of some kind, so it’s no surprise when Faith makes a secually charged phone call to a supposed paramedic before putting on a pair of cuffs, shoving a plastic bag into her mouth and slipping a noose around her neck. It’s clear what she’s planning here. But it all goes south when the guy on the other end calls back, telling her not to get started. That there’s been an accident and his car has been totalled. The resulting death scene was very tough to watch, both times I watched it, but was nevertheless wonderfully executed, due in no small part to an absolutely captivating performance from actress Siobhan Hewlett. I actually enjoyed Act of Faith a lot, and was glad to see that Moore had found a talented collaborator in director Mitch Jenkins, whose work I was not previously familiar with. All in all it got me very excited for Jimmy’s End.
Unfortunately, Jimmy’s End didn’t hold up to its end of the bargain. At least not upon my initial viewing of it. It’s not that it’s bad, necessarily. It’s visually very splendid, with nearly every shot looking good enough to frame and hang on your wall. Weird imagery abounds and the camera takes its time, letting you soak it all in. The pacing of the movie was also good. Although it is a short film, it moves very slowly, letting the tension build as our protagonist, James Mitchum, walks through the empty halls of St. James’ End. There’s a phone ringing incessantly and a flickering light bulb, a deformed doll of some kind and a weird pentagram symbol painted onto the wall. It starts to really play up this really creepy, David Lynch vibe. But right after that we see Faith again and it all falls apart.
When Faith shows up in Jimmy’s End she’s wearing the same dress as when she apparently died at the end of Act of Faith. And the man sitting next to her, Matchbright, an unsettling little fellow who is associated with Alan Moore’s character, Frank Metterton, starts choking and goes to cover his mouth with a plastic bag. Ok, so the suicide thing at the end of Act of Faith did happen, so that means she’s… in Hell? Purgatory? Some sort of afterlife?
And then I start to think, “Really? Alan Moore wrote a short film and made it about the Christian understanding of the afterlife? Alan Moore, my hero, actually went with the whole ‘they were dead the whole time” bait-and-switch for his first film?’ Why?” I gotta say, I felt a little let down. From that point on my main interest was just seeing what Alan Moore would look like when he finally came on screen, and to see if he was a good actor or not. The rest really didn’t hold much interest for me anymore. There’s a bald clown guy and some voluptuous burlesque performers and a goofy little cartoon about a drunk man who falls down the stairs, which unsettles James so much that I’m inclined to guess that it’s explaining how he himself must have died. And there’s a lot of beautiful shots and a lot of dialogue that was really hard to understand no matter how many times I listened to it. And Faith isn’t half as interesting in this one as she was in the last film.
And then Moore shows up. I knew he was in the movie, but didn’t anticipate that the film would actually all just be building up to his grand entrance, which I thought was just a teensy weensy bit vain. But then he comes out introduced by Matchbright as “The Great I AM,” and it turns out he’s not just Alan Moore in a cool wizard-y outfit, he’s God. He’s freaking God. Alan Moore is God in his own movie. A gold-faced, white-bearded, silver-suited God. And he recites this spoken word piece (with that big, booming Alan Moore voice) that sounds great and pretty much reveals that this was the afterlife all along without really resolving any of the questions that such a revelation brings up. And then James is brought to the stage and God shows him the light, and the movie ends. So I suppose he’s either resurrected or he ascends into heaven. Either way it doesn’t really challenge any conventional religious ideas the way that Moore’s work on the subject typically will.
Like I said, it wasn’t a bad movie. It just didn’t blow me away. I’m still a huge Alan Moore fan, and as an Alan Moore fan I’m glad that I watched it. As a movie lover, I was very impressed by the visuals of the film and the very patient pacing of it. I guess I was just expecting something else. I’m sure if I went back and watched it a few more times, I’d find stuff in it to make me better appreciate what Moore was trying to do with it, but honestly, based on my first impression of the film, I’d rather just watch something else. Ultimately, I’m happy that Moore got to make it and that he got to mix in some of his spoken word work as well, as I find it inspiring to see him mix and match different media the way he does.
Jimmy’s End is the second of five short film collaborations between Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins, so perhaps the next one, Upon Reflection will hold something more for me. After all, I still thought Act of Faith was pretty brilliant. And at the end of the day, they’re both still better than that goddamn League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie.