Six degrees of Kevin Bacon

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon

[ Photo by Mendy Cole-Walsh ]

Continued from FLL#28, Page 128
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There are only four degrees of separation between Billy Bob Thornton’s latest movie, “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” and Fine Living Lancaster readers. In FLL #27, I told the story of how Editor Mark Pontz fulfilled his dream of being a rockstar by attending the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas. His counselor at the camp was Teddy “Zig-Zag” Andreadis (read all about Andreadis in FLL #28).  Andreadis is friends with Billy Bob Thornton. When Thornton set out to direct his fourth full-length motion picture he called in Andreadis as a musician for the film’s score. So if you’ve recently picked up a copy of FLL, you are the fourth degree of separation from Billy Bob Thornton.

The film, which opened to extremely limited audiences in September 2013, is an eclectic look at human existence. The setting is Alabama in the late 1960s during the height of social tensions surrounding the Vietnam War. Jim Caldwell (Robert Duvall) is kind of a big deal around this small town and tempers flare when one of his adult, military veteran sons (Carroll, played by Kevin Bacon) is arrested for protesting the war. [Yes, now in the grand scheme of things known as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, we are all forever intertwined.] Jim lives in the old family estate with his two other sons. The perfect son, Jimbo (Robert Patrick), can ne’er-do-wrong despite his lack of combat service. The socially challenged Skip (Billy Bob Thornton) barely escaped the flames of his downed fighter plane. Their sister flits through the maze of masculinity in search of some kind of acceptance. This most dysfunctional of dysfunctional families is ripped from their norm when word arrives mom has died. The tension arises from the fact she had left the entire family many years before, shacking up with Englishman Kingsley Bedford (John Hurt). Her new family across the pond delivers the absentee matriarch home for a final resting and things start to get really weird.

“Jayne Mansfield’s Car” is a cross between a dark comedy and a coming of age film and is at some moments flat out bizarre. By writing, directing, and acting in his movie, Thornton has confirmed through cinematic art much of what Hollywood has said about the masterful performer—he’s a genius with a little touch of the peculiar. As a filmmaker, he’s come a long way from his Oscar-winning “Sling Blade” and I find it hard to accept such a star-studded movie as “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” only grossed $14,376 dollars. It is now available for on demand viewing through many outlets.

Thornton has always had an affinity for music (predominantly country). He has his own band, The Boxmasters, who are currently working on releasing their fourth and fifth records. He’s released four solo albums; Teddy Andreadis sat in on most of them. In “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” Thornton decided to use the set band—including Andreadis—to help with scene transitions and drive tension, dissent, and heartache into the film. Thornton mixes tracks from the movie’s band with songs from archaic, lost psychedelic rock bands like Fifty Foot Hose (a popular bay area band to see live whose 1968 album sold few copies, but is reviewed highly).

Billy Bob Thornton seems to do the things he wants to do, simply to do them. He had a story he wanted to tell and he put it to life on the screen. Despite being an intriguing film, “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” may simply slide away into obscurity; it’s the kind of film skirting most people’s radar. It passed by me … until I talked with Andreadis.