Eating (1990) Starring: Nelly Alard, Frances Bergen, Mary Crosby, Lisa Richards, Gwen Welles, Daphna Kastner, Elizabeth Kemp, Marlena Giovi, and Marina Gregory Written and Directed by: Henry Jaglom MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 110 Mins.
Babyfever (1994) Starring: Victoria Foyt, Frances Fisher, Elaine Kagan, Dinah Lenney, Zack Norman, Matt Salinger, and Eric Roberts Directed by: Henry Jaglom Written by: Henry Jaglom & Victoria Foyt Running Time: 110 Mins.
Going Shopping (2005) Starring: Victoria Foyt, Rob Morrow, Lee Grant, Pamela Bellwood, Bruce Davison, Joseph Feury, Martha Gehman, Jennifer Grant, Kim Kolarich, Juliet Landau, Cynthia Sikes, and Mae Whitman Written and Directed by: Henry Jaglom MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 106 Mins.
Irene In Time (2009)
Starring: Tanna Frederick, Lanre Idewu, Andrea Marcovicci, Victoria Tennant, David Proval, Karen Black, Adam Davidson, Kelly DeSarla, Sabrina Jaglom, Simon D. Jaglom, Andrew Leeds, Joe Manganiello, Rob Mathes, Jack Maxwell, Zack Norman, and Reni Santoni MPAA RATING: PG-13 WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Henry Jaglom Running Time: 95 Mins
Jaglom Collection Vol. 3: The Women's Quartet Released by Breaking Glass
As part of their ongoing collaboration with maverick indie filmmaker Henry Jaglom, Philly-based indie distributor Breaking Glass Pictures has released Henry Jaglom Volume 3: The Women's Quartet, a collection of four Jaglom films - Eating, Babyfever, Going Shopping, and Irene in Time. Village Voice once said about Jaglom "Henry Jaglom knows something that's on the mind of every woman in America," and The Women's Quartet really drives home that few filmmakers, and even fewer male filmmakers, have so consistently produced films that are as intelligent, insightful, and respectful of women as has Henry Jaglom. This could very well be why he continues to work with some of Hollywood's most talented women while also forging his own path away from the Hollywood machinery that so often demands compromise.
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.
Starring Victoria Foyt, who also co-wrote the film and was married to Jaglom at the time, Babyfever represents the kind of Jaglom film that I appreciate the most - immensely entertaining yet intelligent, insightful and, at least one suspects, somewhat personal in nature despite the fact that it is actually about women and that all too familiar and challenging decision as to whether or not to have a baby.
Foyt is front and center as Gena, a woman who has landed herself a boyfriend (Matt Salinger) with whom she is nearing the point of commitment. The boyfriend in question is practically the polar opposite of her last boyfriend, played to perfection by Eric Roberts, an edgier and far more complicated man. It's an age old debate here, and while Babyfever doesn't necessarily have a whole lot new to say about the subject it still manages to feel engaging and involving. This is especially true once Gena and her friends gather for a baby shower, a shower which just so happens to be getting filmed as a documentary about, you guessed it, a baby shower. While this might sound like it's a tad too convenient, Jaglom as a director has never really worried about playing Hollywood tricks. He writes and directs films about real people in real situations, sometimes within a certain genre and sometimes simply wherever his heart and mind take him.
While Babyfever is very much about women and the particular choices they are facing as their biological clock is ticking, the film benefits greatly from an appearance by Zack Norman as Mark, an employer of Gena's currently in dire financial straits. The film is for the most part a simple and sincere affair, and Norman brings a lightness that is welcome and yet feels naturally manifested. Among the women, Frances Fisher resonates most deeply. I've read that Fisher credits having worked on this film for her decision to have a child with her husband at the time, Clint Eastwood.
Babyfever is that rare film that is both emotionally engaging and laugh out loud funny, an emotionally honest wellspring of human emotions and honest expressions that will likely have you nodding your head and laughing with familiarity. At times, the film also allows for something else I appreciate greatly about Jaglom - difficult truths well presented without ever feeling contrived or manipulative. Frequent Jaglom contributor D.P. Hanania Baer once again lenses the film beautifully, capturing the lightness of the laughter and the warmth of the intimacy.
As part of Henry Jaglom's Women's Quartet, I wouldn't be surprised if this film is a favorite of even the men who watch the collections four films.
While I fancy myself a rather diehard fan of indie filmmaker Henry Jaglom, I will confess that Going Shopping is one of my least favorite of his films, a decent enough film that really just doesn't have the lasting impact that did Eating and Babyfever, the latter two being films that were emotionally satisfying, intellectually thought-provoking, and immensely entertaining. Going Shopping, on the other hand, is more intellectually muddled than its predecessors and, at times, its tension is of that irritating shrill nature that makes you want to leave the room to get away from it.
On a rather sarcastic note, there is one scene in the film where Victoria Foyt's Holly is emoting alongside her daughter, Coco (Mae Whitman), and it achieves such a twisted symphony of shrillness that I found myself chuckling and thinking "It's no wonder Jaglom's not married to her anymore."
I know. I know. Evil.
But I digress.
The truth is that Going Shopping isn't a bad film. It's simply a film that never quite clicks on the level that one expects a Jaglom film to click, especially in terms of emotional honesty and its relational nature. Jaglom is rather uncanny at his ability to cast an ensemble cast that truly gels, with only an occasional misfire. Of course, it helps that he tends to work with familiar faces time and again, but even when he weaves in new cast members he does so with such clarity that you sit there watching the screen wondering if they're friends or at least somehow connected in real life.
Going Shopping also features the lovely Jennifer Grant, the daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon, and the under-used but still memorable Lee Grant as Holly's mother. The film centers around Holly G, one of those flashy high-end shops that would likely lock its doors if it ever saw me coming near it. The shop is in Beverly Hills, and as we've come to expect from Jaglom it features a wide variety of characers who frequent the shop and are guided through unmarked merchandise by the fashionista Holly (Victoria Foyt). While Holly believes herself to be wonderfully successful and the shop to be doing quite fine, in truth her boyfriend (Bruce Davison) hasn't been paying the rent and the landlady, who just so happens to be shopping when all this is revealed, is about to evict her.
While the vast majority of Jaglom's films feel honest and authentically developed, Going Shopping simply never gels and the women, whom Jaglom historically portrays with tremendous love and affection, instead feel like the kind of emotionally vacant and narcissistic women we Hoosiers would expect to find if we would ever happen to stumble into a Beverly Hills fashion shop.
Um. I don't think so. Okay, maybe if they had a Beverly Hills wheelchair shop, but definitely not Holly G.
While Going Shopping is the weakest entry in Jaglom's The Women's Quartet, it's still an intriguing enough film that fits nicely within the framework of this quartet that it's worth a view. If all else fails, when you get done you'll likely be in the mood to go shopping.
The films of Henry Jaglom aren't so much an acquired taste as they are an either/or kind of cinematic experience. In other words, either you appreciate Jaglom's relentlessly inward style of filmmaking or you find it pandering, excessive and psychological masturbation to the highest degree. When Jaglom is "on," such as in Hollywood Dreams, Jaglom's fierce dedicating to self-exploration makes for innovative and exciting cinema. However, when Jaglom occasionally hits a wrong note, Jaglom's approach feels unnecessarily histrionic and lacking in the one thing that should always be present in a Jaglom film...authenticity.
In Irene in Time, a film Jaglom dedicates to his daughter, Irene (Tanna Frederick) is looking for a man she can love as intensely as she loved her recently departed father. The problem is that her obsession with her father is obvious and, despite what Jaglom seems to view as the best of intentions, Irene sabotages virtually every relationship, date or even thought of a date with conversations about daddy and her obviously unresolved daddy issues. Irene comes off as the beautiful girl with a larger than life personality with whom you can't believe you actually got a date only to realize a few minutes into the date that you may very well have been better off with the homely girl with a dry personality who was sitting right next to her.
Truthfully, if I were to become a director I could see myself being a rather psychotic blend of Jaglom, Jarmusch and a touch of Araki. Even as a film critic, I've been known to drive other critics batty with my occasionally personalized reviews and self revelations. I don't do film criticism the way film criticism is supposed to be done and Jaglom, who has been largely financing his own films since the early 70's, doesn't do filmmaking the way filmmaking is supposed to be done.
So, I guess that means I do, in fact, have an appreciation for Jaglom's way of making a film.
That said, even with the best director, sometimes the film itself simply doesn't connect and, unfortunately, far too often Irene in Time is neither interesting nor particularly entertaining. Irene spends most of her days hanging out with her gal pals and recording godawful tunes in what looks like your neighborhood recording studio. The studio scenes largely serve as transition scenes for the film's scene after scene of dialogue centered upon virtually every angle of the father/daughter relationship possible.
The fatal flaw, if it's possible to pinpoint one, is that Irene's obsession seems completely unfounded and is never even remotely explained within the context of the film. Instead, as Irene in Time plays itself out Irene's obsession with her father becomes more inexplicable as we learn more about how Irene has seemingly romanticized the few glorious moments her father actually paid her decent attention and practiced a bit of parenting. For the most part, daddy seems like quite the slacker.
Frederick, who turned in a strong performance in Hollywood Dreams, is less convincing here but it's difficult to determine whether or not this is because of the material she's given to work with or a problem with the performance itself. It is worth noting that both Victoria Tennant and Jaglom regular Andrea Marcovicci shine in supporting roles, lending credibility to the idea that the problem is a weaving together of character development and interpretation. At least for this writer, Irene just never registers on the level that one would expect given the story that's unfolding and the Jaglom's cinematic history.
Hanania Baer's camera work is strong, guided by Jaglom's gifted eye for catching the unspoken communication going on in a conversation. Baer has a nice way of creating a sense of fluidity in the dialogue heavy scenes, a technique that keeps Irene in Time from ever feeling bogged down. While Harriet Schock's original music would be right at home at a women's folks music festival, as part of Irene in Time it only serves to amplify the film's lack of an emotional core despite the inherent emotional aspects of the topic itself.
An intriguing idea that never quite gels into a cohesive film, Irene in Time is likely only a "must see" for diehard fans of Jaglom and his growing ensemble of acting regulars such as Frederick and Marcovicci.