A teenage orphan (Jessica Chastain) spends ten years traveling cross-country experiencing life, love and heartbreak. Based on E.L. Doctorow's story, "Jolene: A Life." A veteran of Seattle International Film Festival 2008 and Palm Springs International Film Festival 2009.
Dan Ireland
Jessica ChastainDermot MulroneyChazz Palminteri
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Rupert FriendDenise RichardsMichael VartanFrances FisherTheresa Russell
Zachary MatzRiva Yares
Entertainment One
R (Restricted)
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Nudityviolencesubstance usealcohol usesmokingfoul languagesexual content
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4.1 out of 5 stars

401 global ratings

  1. 61% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 10% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 6% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 9% of reviews have 1 stars
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joshuaReviewed in the United States on August 21, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Wow Just Wow!!
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What a trip this one is. Making movies based on prose novels is not an easy thing. I would bet even the book was more immersive than this film, (similar to The Red Tent) but for what it's worth, this one had me hooked. It Chronicles 10 years in the life of a young woman simply named Jolene, who after a childhood of being raised in the foster system is emancipated early and forced to grow up in a world that throws a plethora of curve balls at her in regards to life especially relationships, whilst trying to make a life for herself. Each partner she hooks up with reads like chapters in a book some hilarious, others shocking, others gruesome and ending in a clinging of hope. There's a voiceover in the film's ending where Jolene states that dsspite being 25 she is younger than she looks in potential actress roles, and i would say it's an almost self critique of the actress that portrays her, Jessica Chastain's performance was just amazing, she plays the almost naive impressionable teenager quite well, in the first half of the film, and with every partner encounter you could see her mature slowly but surely into a woman that always bounced back despite the utter madness of her stories. The partners she hooks up with can be a separate review and it's quite a bunch. All I can say is, some are tragic, some are creepy, some are hilarious, some turn out Heavenly at first making the crash to reality all the more painful, but the last and sixth one is quite a whiplash, starts off comedic but immediately takes a dark turn, and wouldn't you know, it involves a Christian, who turns out to be the slimiest, most entitled, arrogant, pretentious, disgusting, weak, monstrous pile of pig excrement ever imagined, he is the one I can describe here, because he struck an angry cord to me, and I just could not be quiet about it. Ladies, if you ever meet a man like this, keep your radar up, and if your gut is telling you to run away, run far away and never look back.
All in all, quite a Rollercoaster ride of a film, hilarious, creepy, dramatic, dark, and a little hope sprinkled in. Not for the faint of heart.

Ps I imagine the book is a little better.
One person found this helpful
Tiffany MinnickReviewed in the United States on October 18, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
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I enjoyed the read
RBockReviewed in the United States on February 11, 2014
3.0 out of 5 stars
Jessica Chastain is Amazing, But Impossibly Cannot Carry This Film
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This movie had great potential to be phenomenal; however, it falls very short.

Jessica Chastain is amazing and this is my first exposure to her in a substantive role. Where Jolene went right is, as I mentioned, is the story itself (by E.L. Doctorow) as one that has begged to be told. When the story begins, Jolene is a child, a product of the foster care system, who is virtually abandoned by her birth parents. Survival is the main theme of the film, and we follow Jolene in her journey to emotionally and physically survive.

In her search for love (familial love and acceptance that humans instinctively need; certainly not romantic love or affection) and for a place to lay her head, we watch Jolene desperately maneuver from place to place, partner to partner. And we also see predators in action, as it's extremely common for sexual, emotional, and physical abusers to choose their victims based on vulnerability, ability to isolate, and ability to manipulate.

We get to observe Jolene make choices based on mere survival throughout the film, watching her grow and evolve, *almost* able to trust her ability to rely on herself and her own instincts--until the predators pull her back in, in a cycle of abuse and reliance. Jolene is used and abused, but with each instance, she evolves and survives--as we all do. And incredibly enough, through the most horrifying circumstances, Chastain never tells Jolene's story as a victim.

While the story itself is extremely brilliant and a raw insight in how domestic violence often starts, the transition from paper to screen seems to be a rocky transition:

There are far too many cliches in this movie. I don't know where it's written that any movie based in the South or that has Southerns in it must be a caricature with over-the-top melodrama. Chastain holds her own, but most of the rest of the cast does not, unfortunately. The character Coco Leget (Rupert Friend), for instance, is an English actor who must have learned to mock a New Orleanean accent from Hee Haw.

The acting is "sub-par"-ingly distracting. Again, Chastain shines, but the acting takes away from the heart of the story.

Overall, it's definitely worth a watch, if not for the commanding presence of Jessica Chastain and the survivor's story.
Richard A. ColeReviewed in the United States on April 16, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Far deeper than you think
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This is a thought provoking movie, that shows a life that is often hidden by the male dominated movie industry.
It shows a journey of a young woman taking place in ten years. It is unabashed in it's view of ugly men mistreating women and the misogamy and jealousness of men. Though this movie does have one man who treated her right, the rest were just awful people. It is sad to see how badly treat women and abuse them or exploit them in some way.
This too is a show of how many women are made to pick-up the wreckage wrought by men, and how women are made to fend for themselves after they are thrown away. It shows this by a somewhat naïve woman's perspective. It is a bit light-hearted, yet honest.
I found I liked this better than I thought. The acting was good, even the rich abuser, who made you think he was a worm from the first scene. Well put together story, production value high, and a story that was done with honesty and compassions without coming on too strong.
Christopher KennisonReviewed in the United States on April 9, 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars
FEARLESS actress Jessica Chastain
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I love this movie. When I first saw this movie, I knew that Jessica Chastain was going to be a star. Not only that, I knew that she would win an Oscar someday. Fast forward to 2013 and her on the red carpet, nominated for "Zero Dark Thirty". She will win someday because she knows something that most actress never find out. She is fearless. In the span of the length of "Jolene", she grabbed every taboo that actresses face by the throat and strangled the bejesus out of it.

I don't really know why "Jolene - The Director's Cut" was released, but it isn't as good. There are many many cuts, most of them sexual and there are many scenes that are different. Ultimately though, "Jolene" is about the power of a woman and the strength of a woman, sexuality and all. So cutting these scenes made the movie less of what it originally was.

Bottom line, "the director's cut" is too much of a cut and the original is a better film.

Jessica Chastain tackles this character of "Jolene" and showed what probably was an Oscar-worthy performance before anybody knew who she was. The movie is about innocence and sex. No matter how much we want to deny it, it is what drives us, many times in the wrong direction. For some, it drives us in the wrong direction over and over. It is the nature of the beast and what we see from Jolene is the development of her inner-strength and maturity after a lifetime of taking the harsh road.

You want to see an actress bury herself in a role, check out the ORIGINAL CUT of "Jolene". Jessica Chastain went from a virtual unknown to an Oscar nominee and you can see why in this 120 minute movie from 2008.
7 people found this helpful
Jay LaneReviewed in the United States on January 6, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
From the Frying Pan to the Fire
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Director Dan Ireland ("Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont," co-founder of Seattle International Film Festival) uses a story by E. L. Doctorow ("Ragtime") to bring us a fifteen-year-old girl who marries a boy to get away from an abusive foster home. Problem is, she jumps from the frying pan into the fire.

Over the next ten years, we encounter:
* Jessica Chastain (Winner of 2008 Golden Space Needle for Best Actress, SIFF) as our eponymous heroine. This actress ages from age 15 to 25 and plays everything from a high school student to a pole dancer in a strip joint; from a Tulsa housewife to a glamorous redhead kept by a Vegas kingpin. This is a dream role for any actress and Chastain is amazing.
* Zeb Newman (lots of TV) is her gawky first husband; he is the frying pan...
* Dermot Mulroney ("The Wedding Date") is Uncle Phil; he is the fire (see above).
* Frances Fisher (Lots of TV) works in a mental hospital (don't ask!).
* Rupert Friend ("Pride and Prejudice" - 2005) is another husband, a randy musician with a tattoo parlor.
* Chazz Palminteri ("Modern Family") lives in a Las Vegas penthouse.
* Michael Vartan ("Rogue") is her wealthy Tulsa husband. He doesn't want to know a thing about her past....until he does....
This is an R-rated study of a resilient little gal who is the epitome of grit and determination, AND she washes up nice! This film was made in 2008, so even though I saw it at a theatrical press screening this week, it is already in on-line catalogs, and might be available on Netflix or in your local library.

This review was first posted 11/5/10 and I've been following Jessica Chastain's career ever since. She's phenominal.
5 people found this helpful
W. StilesReviewed in the United States on June 18, 2022
3.0 out of 5 stars
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Good movie, just not so interesting. People making bad decisions over and over......
IloveromanceReviewed in the United States on September 19, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
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This is one of those rare movies that gets better and better the longer you watch. My first thought was "What a life she's had!", but not all of her life was good. She made some really bad choices and they changed her life in dramatic ways. At first I thought she was really naive for the choices she made, but after a while I began to feel sorry for her. Great performances by everyone and the scenes of Vegas and the Southwest were beautiful. When the screen went black and the credits began to roll, I was disappointed because I wanted more. Jolene is an amazing woman-and this is an amazing movie.
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