I saw “A Journal for Jordan” as part of a pre-release women’s night out screening and the predominately female audience appreciated many aspects of this adaptation of Dana Canedy’s memoir of her unlikely romance. However, under director Denzel Washington, the film drags in spots and yet fails to linger on what the audience was waiting for–eye candy.
Jordan is the name of the son that Dana Canedy had with her fiancé, First Sergeant Charles Monroe King. King died while deployed in Iraq. Canedy’s 2008 “A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor” was an expansion of an essay she wrote for The New York Times (“From Father to Son, Last Words to Live By”). Canedy has already received a 2001 Pulitzer Prize as a co-author of the series “How Race Is Lived in America.” She joined The New York Times in 1996 and by 2006 was a senior editor. From 2017 to 2020, she was an administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes at Columbia University, becoming the first woman and first person of color to hold that position. In July of 2020, she became a senior Vice President and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint.
Canedy is an ambitious woman, filled with a drive that perhaps blinded her to the uncertainties of life and war. This side of the armed conflict in Iraq was the one that lasted from 2003 and ended in 2011, begun as part of then-President George W. Bush’s War on Terror following the September 11 attacks.
In the film, we seen Canedy’s (Chanté Adams) frustration at work with her editors, but we don’t see her vision of the future. The audience was quite clear, more than one woman was hoping to see Michael B. Jordan’s shirt off. Neither director Washington nor Jordan disappointed in this respect. The movie goes even a little further, giving the briefest glimpse of a naked Jordan from the back in an artistically darkened room. This is nothing compared to the lingering shots of naked women that are the regular fare of Hollywood PG-13 movies.
Virgil Williams’ screenplay doesn’t give us the push-and-pull, will-they-won’t-they emotional turmoil that Canedy’s essay and excerpt in NPR expressed:
As the daughter of an army veteran, I grew up on or near military bases and after I left for college wanted no more of that life. So for years I resisted getting deeply involved with your father, and much of our long-distance romance involved him chasing me and me pushing him away. We dated other people at times, me out of a fear of committing to your father, him out of frustration with my dithering. Ultimately, it was his steadiness, his character, and his sureness about who he was and what he stood for that won me over, something you will get to know by reading the journal.
Under Washington’s lackluster direction, Jordan’s introverted King doesn’t convey his internal longings and Adams’ Canedy can’t overcome the short-comings of the script. The film “A Journal for Jordan” works best as a teaser for Canedy’s memoir and a reminder that during war, it might be better to fast-track wedding plans.
“A Journal for Jordan” was released on 25 December 2021.