Thornton is the cousin of professional wrestling legend Terry Funk.
Not counting the Willie Nelson documentary he made a couple of years ago, Jayne Mansfield's Car marks Billy Bob Thornton's return to directing after an absence of more than a decade. With a talented cast involved and a southern setting, some might draw quick comparisons to Thornton's greatest work, Sling Blade. Unfortunately, the bloated runtime and cast of characters hold back Jayne Mansfield's Car from being anywhere near the 1996 classic.
It's 1969 in small town Alabama and family patriarch Jim Caldwell (Robert Duvall) is furious to discover that his son Carroll (Kevin Bacon) was arrested for his role in an anti-Vietnam War protest. Along with Jim and Carroll, the other sons in the Caldwell clan - Skip (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jimbo (Robert Patrick) - are all armed forces veterans. Their similarities end there as each of them have wildly different views when it comes to the subject of war. In the midst of an argument around the dinner table, Jim receives a call that his estranged wife has passed away and her new English family will be escorting her body back to Alabama for burial. The Bedford family (including John Hurt and Ray Stevenson) soon make their way to town and attempt to be civil with the Caldwells. Can these two families with differing views come together in this trying time?
Jayne Manfield's Car is ultimately about diversity, how people grieve, and how different generations view war. In those particular aspects, the film does succeed in showcasing an emotional kaleidoscope. By the same token, the film is drawn out and features far too many characters for viewers to invest in. On top of that, this is one of those movies where some of the characters are so downright odd that it's hard to judge if the performances are good, bad, or just weird. The film is full of great actors, but the best performance might just be from comedian Ron White who was perfectly selected to play an obnoxious, loud-mouthed husband. This Blu-Ray release is the definition of bare-bones with only a 10-minute "making-of" video and no trailers to be found whatsoever (not even before the title screen, which is very unusual). As a result, for those itching to see a Thornton and Duvall reunion of sorts, I would recommend Jayne Manfield's Car as a rental only.