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Originally published Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Movie review

'Little Miss Sunshine' growing up in 'Janie Jones'

Abigail Breslin, nominated for an Academy Award when she was 10 years old for "Little Miss Sunshine," moves gracefully into adolescence in "Janie Jones," about a teen abandoned by her mother and raised by her rock musician father. The film unfolds with genuine sweetness and Breslin performs with great naturalism and charm, according to Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald. The movie is playing at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown in Seattle.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Janie Jones,' with Abigail Breslin, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Shue, Brittany Snow, Peter Stormare. Written and directed by David A. Rosenthal. 107 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains strong language and drug use). SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

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Child actors don't always survive the teen years with their talent intact, so it's a joy to see Abigail Breslin, in "Janie Jones," weathering adolescence with such grace. Nominated for an Academy Award for 2006's "Little Miss Sunshine" when she was just 10 years old, Breslin here gives a performance of great naturalism and charm, effortlessly carrying a challenging leading role.

Janie is a teen whose sunny smile hides a troubled past: Her mother, Mary Ann (Elisabeth Shue) has long struggled with drug addiction, and Janie has never known her father. She meets him, early in the film, under less-than-ideal circumstances: He's Ethan (Alessandro Nivola), the lead singer/guitarist in a middling rock band, and Mary Ann abandons Janie in a club where Ethan's group is performing — leaving the child no choice but to go on tour with her newfound parent, who's not thrilled to learn he's a dad.

It's pretty easy to guess how "Janie Jones" will unfold — father and daughter, after a rocky start, become indispensable to each other — but writer/director David A. Rosenthal lets the story play out with genuine sweetness, both in the drama and the songs (sung, quite well, by Nivola and Breslin). And any young actress looking for a master class would do well to study Breslin here: how she breaks our hearts by crying so quietly we barely hear her, or by simply saying a soft "No" when asked by Ethan, who's about to leave her alone in a depressing hotel room, if she needs anything. (This child has learned not to expect much from adults; they'll always disappoint.) You can see, in Breslin's face, the young woman she's becoming, and the wondrous career that lies ahead.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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