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The Independent Critic

Kelly Alard, Frances Bergen, Mary Crosby, Lisa Richards and Gwen Welles
Henry Jaglom
Rated R (Ludicrously so)
110 Mins.
Breaking Glass Pictures (20th Anniversary DVD)
Filmmaker Commentary; Filmmaker Biography; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection; Henry Jaglom & Cast on Phil Donahue; Films of Henry Jaglom Trailers; 16x9 Widescreen Format

 "Eating" Review 
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Henry Jaglom is an observer.

An independent filmmaker in the truest sense of the word, famed independent auteur Henry Jaglom has never bothered himself nor his cast with catering to the Hollywood machinery. Rather than creating pretty little pictures wrapped with pretty little cinematic ribbons, Jaglom creates intelligent, deeply felt and richly authentic films where characters are allowed to exist "as is" in a world that doesn't always know what to do with them.

Jaglom films can be simultaneously irritating, frustrating, riveting, exciting, hilarious and even heartbreaking.

Eating is such a film.

Thanks to the fine folks at indie distrib Breaking Glass Pictures, Henry Jaglom's Eating is getting a special 20th Anniversary DVD distribution complete with an abundance of special features seldom offered on the indie labels. Fully remastered in high-definition, Henry Jaglom's Eating is a gift for Jaglom fans and for anyone who truly appreciates thought-provoking independent cinema.

On her 40th birthday, Helene (Lisa Richards) has decided to throw herself a birthday party at her home and to invite several of her closest friends and her mother (Frances Bergen). Because this is a Jaglom film, we're immediately aware that there will be much more than a party going on during Eating and, indeed, much more does go on as Helene's friends are themselves a kaleidoscope of the human experience that will evoke laughter, a few tears, considerable reflection and more than a little introspection. Kate (Mary Crosby) has just turned 30 while Sadie (Marlena Giovi) is about to turn 50. The party grows as Kate and Sadie are invited to bring their own friends, and Martine (Nelly Alard), Helen's houseguest and a filmmaker from Paris, joins in the festivities.

While reviewing this film in 1991, Washington Post writer Rita Kempley referred to Jaglom as a "low-rent Woody Allen," a reference that explains both why Kempley never became a household name in film journalism and how misunderstood Jaglom can be as a filmmaker. Eating is to a Woody Allen film what I am to the National Basketball Association.

In other words, nothing. Nil. Zilch.

While it might be easy to compare Jaglom with Allen's dialogue-driven films and thought-provoking topics, their entire approach to filmmaking couldn't be more different. One could argue, perhaps, that Allen's approach is more market friendly because it is a more controlled and structured experience. While Allen certainly tackles remarkably human topics, he does so with an eye towards the film's marketability.

Jaglom? Jaglom tackles the human experience with refreshing honesty and, get this, an eye towards the character. There's an integrity in a Jaglom film that is sadly absent from the majority of contemporary cinema.

Eating is a vibrant, entertaining and heartfelt experience because these women's thoughts, feelings, neuroses, joys and sorrows come to life with a poignancy that makes you feel like you've gotten to know these women even though, for the most part, they are drawn more as parts of this story rather than as full-fledged characters.

If there's a character that seems to ground the entire film it would likely be Helene's mother, who is brought to life with a woven together dignity and very subtle empathy that makes her the perfect elder stateswoman for this room filled with mildly narcissistic, self-indulgent, insecure and, perhaps most of all, emotionally exploring women. Lisa Richards resonates quite well as the party hostess, convincing both as a woman reaching an age she finds traumatic and as the daughter of a woman who has figured out how to make sense of life.

Nelly Alard serves as a sort of calm within the storm as the French filmmaker whose film it's discovered is surveying the subject of the relationship between womanhood and food. Of course, this opens up the door for revelation after revelation that sort of ping pongs between hilariously self-indulgent and downright devastating.

Daphna Kastner is terrific as Sadie's overweight daughter Jennifer, while Mary Crosby is a delight as a surprisingly happily married woman who seems to elicit a cross between envy and disbelief among the women.  Strong supporting performances are also turned in by Marlena Giovi, Toni Basil (Remember her hit "Mickey?"), Gwen Wells and Elizabeth Kemp.

Tech credits are solid across the board for the film and, thanks to this digital remastering, are even better for this 20th anniversary release. D.P. Hanania Baer's camera work, likely in line with Jaglom's directorial wishes, serves up an abundance of close-up face shots that are allowed to linger as we contemplate each and every word.

For more information on Eating's 20th Anniversary DVD release, visit the Eating page on the Breaking Glass Pictures website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic