The question of why people love their families when their relatives abuse them, and why people abuse and run away from those who love them is an intriguing question that continuously stirs debate. The new drama Caroline and Jackie, the feature film debut of writer-director Adam Christian Clark, unforgivably and boldly focuses on the strained relationship of the two title characters, who are sisters. While they always question each other’s motives and actions, when they’re ultimately forced to choose between outsiders and each other, they always defend their famikly.
Caroline and Jackie follows Caroline (Marguerite Moreau) as she visits her younger sister, Jackie (Bitsie Tulloch), and her boyfriend Ryan (David Giuntoli). Caroline visits under the guise of celebrating their birthdays together, and their night together starts off with a fun dinner with close friends at a nice restaurant. The evening quickly deteriorates as Caroline reveals the true reason for her visit; she wants to have an intervention for Jackie as she believes her younger sister is anorexic and is addicted to drugs and alcohol.
While Jackie’s friends initially agree with Caroline, and are determined to help in any way possible, they start to question Caroline’s motives as the sisters’ obscure and troubled past comes to light. With Caroline insisting her sister needs help for her addictions, and Jackie asserting that her sister is only acting out for attention, the group becomes increasingly conflicted over which one needs the most help.
Clark perfectly captures the unique bond between sisters that allows them to defend, and stand by each other no matter how much they despise their actions. Jackie is rightfully furious at Caroline the entire night for convincing her friends that she’s suffering from an eating disorder and addictions, just so that she can force her way into her life again. But as her friends start questioning Caroline’s actions, Jackie’s strong connection with her leads her to defend the extremes her sister’s going to.
Clark also made the risky decision of having the entire film improvised; his first script consisted of a 60-page outline that didn’t include the exact phrasing he wanted the actors to say, but just the main points he wanted them to hit throughout every scene. The filmmaker also didn’t permit the actors to speak to each other when they weren’t rehearsing or filming. It seems drastic but the decision proved effective as it provided a realistic environment for the actors. This method allowed the cast, particularly Moreau and Tulloch, to instantly say what they were feeling in every scene without any pre-conceived notions or bias.
Moreau and Tulloch were well cast in their respective title roles, as they both embodied the struggles the characters were facing. Through the daily rehearsal period that lasted nearly a month before shooting began, both actresses learned to ascend into Caroline and Jackie’s mindsets. Moreau especially understood Caroline’s continuous need to be loved and accepted by Jackie, and the negative effect her sister’s dismissal has on her. The actress plays Caroline as being the level-headed, in-control sister in the beginning of the film, but slowly transitions into helplessness when she doesn’t receive the continuous attention she so desperately craves from Jackie and Ryan.
Moreau and Tulloch’s natural bond while they were improvising scenes further emphasized Caroline’s constant need to inject herself into Jackie’s life, and make herself feel important. Caroline acted on her impulses when gathering Jackie’s friends for the intervention, just so that she can feel needed and desired by her sister. Moreau captured Caroline’s want to be loved, and knowledge that whatever she did, no matter how despicable the act, Jackie would always forgive her. Even as Ryan and the group begin to question Caroline’s destructive acts, the two lead actresses had such a natural chemistry that it’s easy to understand why Jackie would never abandon her.
Caroline and Jackie intriguingly explores the strained relationship between two sisters who truly do love each other, but have difficulty expressing their true feelings to each other. The two title characters are also the perfect example of people who are compelled to be protective of the ones they love, but are so disappointed with their actions they can just as easily walk away from them. As a first-time feature film writer and director, Clark proved his ability of not only bringing realistic issues to the screen, but also casting actors who naturally and easily become in tuned with their characters. The drama effortlessly also proves that the love people have for their family is the most important and influential bond they have.
Caroline and Jackie had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 21st, 2012.