Jayne Mansfield’s Car


The film is set in 1969 Alabama. The Caldwell family includes three World War II veterans — brothers played by Thornton, Bacon and Patrick — their sister Donna (LaNasa), and a patriarch, Jim Caldwell (Duvall), who is a World War I veteran. The Caldwells are involved in a cultural clash with the Bedfords, a family which includes Phillip (Stevenson), a World War II veteran, his sister Camilla (O’Connor), and their father Kingsley (Hurt), also a World War I veteran.

The Bedfords are a London family who, as is revealed in the film, are in the Caldwell hometown for the funeral of Kingsley’s wife, who is the ex-wife of Jim Caldwell and the mother of Caldwell’s children. Duvall described the film in an interview as “putting Tennessee Williams in the back seat”.

The film’s title refers to the automobile in which movie star Jayne Mansfield was supposedly decapitated in 1967. When a nearby town has a side show displaying the vehicle, Jim Caldwell takes Kingsley Bedford along to gawk at the grisly artifact.


It has been quite some time since I last reviewed a film starring the beautiful, buxom, underrated talent that is Jayne Mansfield. I believe it was just before the holidays with The Loves of Hercules, but I watched a couple of her other pictures since then. When I heard that a film was being released called Jayne Mansfield’s Car, I couldn’t have been more excited. As anyone that knows me can attest, I am a huge fan of Jayne and firmly believe she deserves more hype and praise than Marilyn, but that’s a blog topic for another day.

What is this about?

In 1969 Alabama, grizzled WW II vet Jim braces for a visit from his ex-wife’s now-widowed husband, who’s bringing her body from England to bury. Soon, the tumult of the era, the changing South and generational clashes play out in Jim’s home.

What did I like?

Story. Putting Jayne Mansfield aside, there is a really good, character driven story here involving 3 brothers, their dad, and the death of their mother which connects them to a family from the United Kingdom. Each of these family members, are very well developed and given a backstory, in some cases tragic, and allows the audience to foster a real connection with them.

Rubbernecking. There is a scene in which Billy Bob Thornton is, shall we say, self-pleasuring himself, while Frances O’Connor’s character is reciting Shakespeare, if I’m not mistaken, in the nude. Now, this should be a disturbing scene, and yet for some reason, one cannot look away. It is like a car wreck on the interstate. Yes, you see it and know that you shouldn’t turn away and look, but curiosity sometimes gets the best of you. Reciprocally, Billy Bob does do a strip tease for O’Connor, but it doesn’t have the same effect, due to certain conditions.

LSD. I didn’t catch how it happens, but somehow Robert Patrick’s son laces his grandfather’s tea, unknowingly, with LSD. As one can imagine, this causes him to start tripping, which happens while on a hunting trip with his new friend from across the pong, John Hurt. While tripping, he seems to jump back to his WWI days, nearly snapping and shooting his comrade and/or doing more damage to himself.

What didn’t I like?

Cast. This is a great cast, but they aren’t really given anything to do worthy of their talents, if you ask me. Take Kevin Bacon’s character, for instance. He may arguably be the best character in the film, but he spends most of it getting high. The only time he gets something to do is in the big scene with his dad’s freakout. Another example is Frances O’Connor, who seems to be a pretty major character, or so we would be led to believe, but she disappears for most of the film, and shows up again just so that we can see her and her family driving away. These are just two of the many examples that actors were wasted. Thornton is a decent enough director, surely he could have given them better material.

Boys will be boys. I think my favorite scene of the film is the final scene, when the Thornton, Bacon, and Patrick are in some grassy knoll area playing catch and drinking. This is a great bonding scene amongst the brothers, but I have to question why they put it there, when there really hadn’t been any connection between the three of them before, as far as I could tell.

Jayne. Before I rip this film a new one, there is a brief mention of Jayne Mansfield’s car and a little history lesson, but that leads me to wonder, why would you give the film this title if has nothing do with either Jayne or her car?!? Honestly, I thought this was going to be some kind of biopic about Jayne, or at least her accident, when I heard the title, and I’m sure more than a few of you felt the same. Also, and I don’t really want to bring this up, but I feel as if needs mentioning. Jayne’s young children were in that car with her and survived. Hearing the title of this movie has to be a bit of a slap in the face and a painful memory for them. Did anyone stop to think what Mariska Hargitay and her siblings would have to say about this flick? Finally, if you’re going to use the car as your title, and barely show it, then you should at least show the whole car, rather than some half ass set prop.

*SIGH* I’m really starting to think we’ll never get a biopic about Jayne Mansfield, except for the one that is already out there. I hoped Jayne Mansfield’s Car was going to be the next biopic, but instead, it oddly used the title as some sort of odd red herring for the entire film. All the Jayne talk aside, this is an ok film. It isn’t great, and you more than likely won’t remember it 5 minutes after you finish it, but it also isn’t horrible, which is always a plus. So, do I recommend it? With my personal bias, I have to say, but if you can get past the missing Jayne Mansfield angle, then this is a decent enough for a watch, but still nothing that will blow you out of the water. Still, if you must, you must.

3 out of 5 stars


One Response to “Jayne Mansfield’s Car”

  1. […] with more of her and less of the teens, but at least this isn’t false advertising, unlike Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Do I recommend this? Not really. Unless you’re like me and want to see all of Jayne’s […]

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