This entry in our week of John Doe film reviews is a personal, family-affair project for its star Jennifer Jason Leigh (who made her debut in Eyes of a Stranger and captured young male hearts as Stacy Hamilton in Fast Times at Ridgemont High). Leigh produced the screenplay written by her mother, screenwriter Barbara Turner.
As an actress, Turner got her start in 1955’s Blackboard Jungle and 1958’s Monster from Green Hell; she came into her own as a screenwriter with 1966’s Deathwatch starring her then husband — and Jennifer’s dad — Vic Morrow (Message from Space, Escape from the Bronx). Her other notable writing efforts include Cujo (which she nom de plume’d as Lauren Currie) and the Academy Award-winning Pollock.
As her co-star, Leigh chose her long-time friend Mare Winningham (St. Elmo’s Fire), whom she known since she was thirteen years old. The choice proved effective, as it provided Winningham with her lone Academy Award-nod — for Best Supporting Actress. For their director, Leigh and Turner chose long-time family friend Ulu Grosbard. A well-regarded theater director (The Subject Was Roses, A View from the Bridge), he worked extensively as a second unit director on the box office hits Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, The Hustler, and The Miracle Worker; he counts Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro as his close friends.
As is the case with fictional rock n’ roll films that are not biographical (Ray, Walk the Line, What’s Love Got to Do With It), while critically acclaimed, it failed at the box office and failed to find a cult audience on video. The story concerns the artistic sibling rivalry of the Flood sisters. Leigh is the jealous and less talented, punky bar room howler of the Janis Joplin variety continually at odds with Georgia, her critically-acclaimed country-singing sister.
John Doe serves as a member of Sadie’s band; he assisted the cast in the recording of the film’s thirteen-song soundtrack featuring covers of tunes by Lou Reed (“I’ll Be Your Mirror,” “Sally Can’t Dance,” “There She Goes Again”), Elvis Costello (“Almost Blue”), and Van Morrison (“Take Me Back”). If you You Tube “Georgia 1995,” you’ll populate several clips from the film featuring Leigh’s vocals.