Jimmy and Judy

“Jimmy and Judy” is both an experiment and a trainwreck, and I confess to being eager to see how it turned out in both respects. Will the experiment fail? Will the trainwreck be bloody? I think the answer is yes in both cases, which technically should make it a “bad” movie. But it’s so engrossing in its attempt that I have a hard time completely dissing it. Just because the tightrope walker slipped and fell to his death doesn’t mean you didn’t enjoy watching the show.

Randall Rubin and Jon Schroder borrowed liberally from films like “Natural Born Killers” when they co-wrote and co-directed “Jimmy and Judy.” Jimmy (Edward Furlong) is a violent, deeply troubled 18-year-old who has been kicked out of college and now torments his parents when he’s not locked up in the mental health facility. Judy (Rachael Bella) is the girl who finds his dangerousness appealing. Crazily in love the way emotionally disturbed teens can be, they go on a bit of a cross-country rampage.

The film’s experimentation is in the way it’s presented. Jimmy is a video buff, and “Jimmy and Judy” is composed entirely of footage shot on a camcorder by Jimmy and Judy themselves. “The Blair Witch Project” was done the same way, you’ll recall, and only a few other movies have ever tried it. It’s an intriguing gimmick, this idea that a movie could be cobbled together from footage left behind by someone. Could a producer compile a movie out of your home videos? Would it make any sense? Would it even be interesting?

If you went on a killing spree and managed to film most of it, I guess the answer would be yes. Killing sprees are almost always worth paying attention to. But in the case of “Jimmy and Judy,” I noticed that I was interested only in how the experiment would turn out, not in the characters themselves. The title kids are loathsome, unsympathetic punks. Their nihilism and boo-hoo-nobody-understands-me pessimism are neither new nor noteworthy. Their behavior (mostly good old-fashioned murder and sex) is sickening — not in a way that makes you think, “Gee, today’s youth sure are messed up,” but in a way that makes you think, “Gee, these filmmakers sure are trying awfully hard to be ‘edgy.'”

See, I just don’t buy it. The film never convinces me that the kids’ outrageous behavior stems from anything other than the filmmakers’ own desire to draw attention to themselves. And yet the film is undeniably well-acted, Furlong’s dirtbag rage and Bella’s misplaced sexual energy shining through impressively. Note that most of the scenes are made up of one long, unbroken take, which means they had to do some in-character improvisation in natural environments. It’s almost like street theater.

So is it worth watching this grim, cynical experiment just out of curiosity, to see what they do with it? Maybe so. I can recommend it for that reason, and for Furlong’s compelling performance, and that’s about it.

B- (1 hr., 39 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity, a lot of nudity, some strong sexuality, some gruesome imagery.)