Jupiter's Wife

"Excellent"

Jupiter's Wife Review


Documentaries on homelessness tend to lean towards the dramatic side, attempting to force a supposedly ambivalent audience into compassion. You can practically sense the filmmakers' guilt seeping through the screen, either that they live as well as they do, or that people without homes are a new phenomenon they are just recently acknowledging... and therefore something must be done about it! While it is a blessing that a film will seek out and tenderly portray the homeless that we fast-paced commuters purposely ignore everyday, the dramatization of the situation can also push the emotional divide between those that fend for themselves and those that don't that much wider.

What the 1995 film Jupiter's Wife captures is, thankfully, entirely different. Director Michel Negroponte follows an eccentric middle-aged woman, Maggie Cogan, who chooses to live in New York's Central Park with several animal companions. The camera simply follows her on a daily basis, and as questions are asked, she responds without the slightest bit of pretension. The camera could be there or not, it's as if she's talking with an old friend. She may have a screw or two loose, but she's always engaging to listen to. The eclectic backdrops of shooting through New York's streets provide a beautiful compliment to her musings, especially as Negroponte's cinematography remains gorgeous throughout.

Because the main subject of the film is homeless, Jupiter's Wife couldn't escape placing Maggie within a framework of a population, but Negroponte gracefully finesses in statistics and humane concern without getting heavy-handed. Instead of provoking depression in the viewer, the film is an affectionate mix of adoring Maggie's cheerful personality and compelling, evenhanded information that pertains to homeless issues displayed through rich archival footage and unemotional onscreen text. Various charities and their beneficent goals are highlighted, but feel included more as a necessity to portray an entire section of society than as a need to relieve or inspire pity or guilt.

Interestingly, Negroponte offered to assist his subject, monetarily and otherwise, even going so far as to move her into an actual apartment. Shortly after filming ceased, however, she returned to her outdoor living environs. Many might find the choice ludicrous, or even use it as an excuse to not help out someone less fortunate, but Negroponte skews the information to more of a personal respect of a self-sufficient person who is leaving safe confines to simply be who they are. Mixing some minor sadness with much humor and respect, Jupiter's Wife successfully divides homelessness from being a personality trait without annoyingly manipulating an audience.

The DVD is a rough affair, a video transfer with a tracking problem along the bottom edge. Eight minutes of extra footage is included, but it offers no updated information about Maggie.



Jupiter's Wife

Facts and Figures

Run time: 87 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th September 1995

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

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