Juno Temple, left, and Riley Keough in "Jack & Diane." (Magnolia Pictures )
The sort of adolescent anxiety as body horror writer-director Bradley Rust Gray attempts with his new lesbian werewolf love story "Jack & Diane" has been done better elsewhere — the 2000 Canadian film "Ginger Snaps" immediately springs to mind.
Here, Juno Temple's British free spirit Diane meets up with Riley Keough's tomboy Jack, and the two fall madly, passionately in love with such recklessness that the force of it seems to awaken an actual monster within Diane. The transformation sequences are conjured through brief, evocative animated sequences courtesy of the Brothers Quay.
Throughout, the filmmaking is tentative, as though Gray is unsure whether he wants to make a fantasy-tinged romance or a hyper-sexualized blood-fest. (He winds up with neither.) It's a disappointment. Gray's previous film was the quiet, tender "The Exploding Girl" which featured a spellbinding performance by Zoe Kazan.
Temple is dependable if uninspiring, and Keough has yet to develop much in the way of screen presence — in the film, her short dark hair and doughy features look sculpted to maximize her resemblance to her grandfather, Elvis Presley.
Keough's brief encounter with a tattooed Kylie Minogue lends nothing except the pop star's name to the credits.
"Jack & Diane." MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content including nudity and an assault, bloody violence, language and drinking – all involving teens. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At the Sundance Sunset Cinema, West Hollywood.