When “Jumbo” is a Tilt-a-Hurl in this Quirky Romance

31 Aug

Jumbo (2020) By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Playing at Fantasia Digital Film Festival 2020 on Aug 31, 23:15 EST. Buy your virtual ticket here.

Spielberg doesn’t really need to mentor the talented Zoé Wittock. Her shorts offer great ideas featuring female protagonists struggling with their identity, and her feature film debut certainly shines. It’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Iron Giant. We will never know the origins of the park ride attraction that Jeanne (Noémie Merlant) finds a connection with.

Her rambunctious mother (Emmanuelle Bercot) and beau of the week don’t make for a simple home life. She’s not really connected with her peers either. Her only escape is when she’s at work, alone with her amusement park rides. One night, she checks out the latest installation, a high-flying hurl-a-whirl (as shown in the movie poster) she calls “Jumbo.”

It’s alive. She treats it like a first crush. When it responds, the story becomes a nice whimsical fantasy. Worshipping a fetish is at the root of this work and whether that’s considered creepy depends on how this film is read. Perhaps it’s about Jeanne’s coming of age and her reluctance to meet a boy, as mum hopes. She may instead prefer another form of gender. There’s also another interpretation which asks for acceptance, no matter who (or what) the protagonist finds as that life partner. Be it gender, race or age, the subject is still difficult to discuss because of what societal norms say.

The money shots are when Jeanne and this carnival ride are together, alone at night. It’s a kind of magic with the fantastic lighting effects done in a kaleidoscope. The feeling is probably similar to those who find driving in the fast lane with that Ferrari intoxicating. The erotic scenes are deftly imagined, handled stylistically, than being exploitative.

We get a tale almost like Transformers: Bumblebee where the charm comes from how Jeanne finally gets that social acceptance in with how her new family comes to understand her. The story has never been about whether or not this carnival ride needs to phone home (I still think it’s a UFO in disguise).

4 Stars out of 5

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