Monday, September 21, 2009

Jaglom’s Irene in Time

Henry Jaglom was an independent filmmaker before indie was cool. He holds the distinction of having directed Orson Welles twice, including the cinema legend’s final film appearance. Still, Jaglom’s films are notoriously talky, limiting his cult appeal as a maverick filmmaker. True to form, Jaglom’s latest film largely consists of emotionally revealing conversations between women on how their relationships with their fathers affected their relationships with men. Yet, even though the title character’s father was a loving, supportive figure, she seems incapable of having a healthy relationship in Jaglom’s Irene in Time (trailer here), which opens in New York this Wednesday.

Irene Jensen’s father was a fun guy. As the film opens, his gambling cronies regale her with colorful anecdotes about him. These scenes are talky in a good way, featuring Zack Norman (recognizable as Danny Devito’s brother Ira in Romancing the Stone) as Larry, a natural born raconteur who would bet against the sun coming up if you gave him the right odds. Regrettably, Jensen soon leaves their company for the first of many uncomfortable episodes of failed romance.

Throughout the course of the film, we will see Jensen crash and burn in one relationship after another, despite the glaringly obvious warning signs. Admittedly, that happens in real life too, but it is still frustrating to watch. When not talking to her friends about her father and her love life, Jensen records tracks for her forthcoming CD. As Jensen, Tanna Frederick has a reasonably pleasing voice. Unfortunately, due to the tinny synthesizers and Helen Reddy-style lyrics, these musical interludes often border on the cheesy.

However, there is one strong musical moment that comes from cabaret star Andrea Marcovicci. Playing jazz singer Helen Dean, a mysterious friend of Jensen’s father, she makes quite an impression singing “Forever in Time We’ll Be,” and has some fine dramatic moments as well. Indeed, there are several excellent supporting performances in Time, including a radiant looking Victoria Tennant as Jensen’s mother, one of the film’s few emotionally mature characters.

Time’s performances are certainly heartfelt and its dialogue is often quite pointed. However, the film cries out for a firmer editorial hand. While some scenes are undeniably effective screen drama, others meander into dead ends. Also problematic are a big revelation that comes as no great surprise and a real head-scratcher of a conclusion—not that the storyline really matters anyway. After all, Jaglom films are all about the conversations rather than the plot.

Although Time is sure to delight Jaglom’s established admirers, it is unlikely to expand his audience. At least it showcases the considerable talents of Marcovicci and Tennant in meaningful supporting roles. It opens this Wednesday (9/23) at the Quad.