After four years away from the screen, and the first work post-David O. Selznick’s passing, Jennifer Jones makes for a curious figure. She seems ill-suited to the role here, and vaguely embarrassed by the things asked of her in the part. There’s nothing about her performance that is as flagrantly bad or mannered as she could be, but she appears to be adrift and unfocused here. Of course, it’s not like The Idol gives her a solid framework or depth of character or emotional texture to work against, or with.
The Idol is an obscurity, and it deserves that fate. It’s listless and overly long with a central character and performance that grate more than they help. Michael Parks is merely giving lukewarm Marlon Brando or James Dean, and it just underscores how much better those two were at the tortured, brooding youth than Parks is. They could reveal the layers and depths of their angst-filled anti-heroes that Parks can’t even try to emulate.
There’s no reason for us to care or want to know Parks’ Marco, an American college student studying art in London. He steals his best friend’s girlfriend, seduces his mother, turns his lone friend into an emotional eunuch, and generally behaves like an aggrandizing asshole. We’re supposed to buy that Marco is somehow a charismatic asshole with depth of character, or the distinct possibility that there’s nothing deeper there. But the film fails to make us want to spend time with this guy, and we see no reason as to why John Leyton’s character is so devoted to him.
The Idol is a hollow film with a worse reputation than it deserves. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s not even the worst film of Jones’ career, but it isn’t good. It’s unpleasant and obnoxious in how it tries to elevate a worthless cad to the level of misunderstood rebel.