A high school setting continues to be an eye-opening reminder of the horrors of being a vulnerable teen in co-writer/director Sabrina Jaglom’s cutting thriller, Jane. Led by Riverdale’s Madelaine Petsch in one of her most intriguing roles to date, the film follows an obsessive, highly committed young girl named Olivia just starting her senior year, eyes locked solely on one thing: admission into Stanford University. Olivia’s best friend, Jane (Chloe Yu), recently committed suicide, and Olivia has not truly dealt with her feelings about the loss. Obsessively refreshing her application portal, all hell breaks loose after Olivia gets that pesky “status deferred” notice.
Izzy (Chloe Bailey, Joyful Noise, Last Holiday), Olivia’s second-best friend who was also close with Jane, has drifted apart in the time since Jane’s passing. They reconnect over a coffee in the wake of Jane’s angry breakdown at transfer student Camille (Nina Bloomgarden, The Resort, Good Girl Jane) who threatens to steal Olivia’s spotlight in the Debate Club. Together, Izzy and Olivia hatch a plan to take down Camille. Using the Connect (a possible stand-in for Facebook, it seems) profile of their deceased best friend, they begin messaging Camille with threats to expose her sordid past. The duo successfully manage to get Camille to withdraw from the school. From here, the sky is the limit. Anyone who annoys or inconveniences Olivia or Izzy ends up on Jane’s Connect feed. A teacher who unfairly assigns a lengthy essay, a girl having an emotional breakdown in the bathrooms—no one is off bounds. A strange thing starts to happen. As “Jane” posts about each of these people, becoming Greenwood High’s version of Gossip Girl, Jane’s followers balloon into the tens of thousands.
Olivia’s mental state decomposes as the film progresses, calling for Petsch (who also produces) to play a conniving, deeply complex character. Olivia sees Jane everywhere, possibly manipulating the Connect profile as a ghost. Is she just a figment of Olivia’s shattered imagination, or is Jane’s presence physically there? The answers to this question for me were a little underwhelming. However, Jane isn’t so much about the hunt for answers. More so, Jane is a character study that calls mental health into question, as well as how far one would go to attend their dream school. Olivia’s obsession with working then reworking a college essay to plead for her place at Stanford eventually comes to a wondrous fruition near the gripping concluding chapter.
The friendship between Olivia and Izzy is the film’s beating heart, even if it’s named after their former bestie Jane. Through every crazy twist and turn, their bond is the lifeblood of Jane, even as the dangerousness of their conniving ways threaten to bleed out. Madelaine Petsch and Chloe Bailey are terrific, and totally believable as friends. In several ways, Jane reminded me of the thematically-similar Sissy (coming to Shudder in September)—both movies tackle an outsider whose obsessions drive them to wild extremes. For any fan of Petsch or Bailey, get ready for one wild ride down the road of perfection’s pursuit.
Admit Jane into your orbit when it sends out an application for select AMC theaters on Friday, August 26th. It streams exclusively on Creator+ on Friday, September 16th.