Monday, November 29, 2010

Jaglom’s Queen of the Lot

Hollywood is the world’s capitol of insecurity. It is the perfect place for Maggie Chase. Do not bother talking to her about the craft of acting. She is too busy tracking her google standing. Yet, there is an outside chance she might reluctantly examine her life choices while serving a DUI house arrest in Henry Jaglom’s Queen of the Lot (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

More-or-less a sequel to Jaglom’s Hollywood Dreams, Chase (formerly Chizek) has sort-of-kind-of made it. A poor man’s Cynthia Rothrock, she is the star of the popular down-market Red Wrecker action series. However, Chase’s low self-esteem and alcohol are a bad mix. While serving her ankle-braceleted sentence in the home of her manager-partners Kaz and Caesar, Chase’s PR team makes her a tabloid sensation. She even has entrée into the glamour of old school Hollywood through her boyfriend Dov Lambert, a scion of a legendary mini-mogul. Yet, her inconvenient attraction to Dov’s younger brother Aaron, a writer and self-described failure, complicates Chase’s single-minded pursuit of her shallow goals.

As required, Tanna Frederick is convincingly needy and superficial as Chase. At times she almost rivals Sidney Falco from The Sweet Smell of Success in her cravenness, but Aaron Lambert still sees something in her worth pursuing. Indeed, ER’s Noah Wyle is the big news of Lot, bringing surprising depth and edginess to the younger brother. His scenes with Frederick bristle with uncomfortable honesty.

Once again, Jaglom assembles an intriguing supporting cast, including Zack Norman (best known as Danny DeVito’s crocodile admiring cousin in Romancing the Stone) as Kaz. Perhaps most appropriately, Peter Bogdanovich plays Pedja Sapir, a well-regarded director who has not made a film in years. (Though perfectly fine in the role, wouldn’t everyone prefer to see him making a new film of his own?)

Often sharply amusing, Lot has little of the sappiness of Irene in Time, Jaglom and Frederick’s last collaboration. Its old-fashioned jazzy soundtrack (much in the tradition of Woody Allen films) is also a considerable improvement. Presumably another of Jaglom’s scripted-and-improvised hybrids, Lot is somewhat uneven. Still, the humor is smart and consistent, while Wyle and Frederick exhibit legitimate on-screen chemistry. A considerably above average skewering of Hollywood for the hardcore indie scene, Lot opens this Friday (12/3) in New York at the Quad Cinema.