Monday, October 3, 2016

With OVATION! Henry Jaglom's back -- and in that theater/movie milieu he so thrives on

The name Henry Jaglom generally sends movie buffs running in two directions: toward or away. TrustMovies  tends mostly to the toward, having enjoyed, to some extent and often hugely, the work of this iconoclastic filmmaker. His latest movie -- OVATION! -- features much of what we've come to prize in his work: the near-improvisation-like and very real-seeming dialog, the interest in relationships (and how our personal desires often trump our ability to maintain those relationships), and of course that fascination with theater and movies and life and how these connect and interact.

Mr. Jaglom, shown at right, is also interested in philosophy (though of what that philosophy consists I'm never quite sure), and the other-worldly. Both of these are to be seen here, too. As is his usual stock company of performers, which now include (I am guessing) his son Simon and daughter Sabrina (their last names are Jaglom, too, but maybe they're more distantly related...?) In any case, both are put to good use in this new film, playing a devoted brother and sister, and they come through with flying colors. They're quirky, funny, attractive and believable, and we enjoy watching them perform.

His star and maybe muse, as has been true for the past decade, is again Tanna Frederick,(above, with David Lee Garber, and below, with James Denton) who seems to grow more assured and graceful with each new performance. Ms Frederick appears to be losing some of her mannerisms and ditzy quality, and she manages to shine more brightly -- and concretely -- than ever.

The movie takes place mostly backstage during a very fraught production of The Rainmaker, which might close due to lack of funding (along with some other surprises we learn about toward the end). We don't see anything of the production except various curtain calls. Nor do we need to. First off, adults of a certain age will be familiar with the play, its movie version, and even the musical made from it. In any case, what is happening backstage provides plenty of plot machination and fun.

We get love stories, the dangling of fame and fortune, and even maybe accidental death (featuring the wielding of a large two-by-four not seen since Catherine Frot did something similar in Chaos). And we're given quite a set of oddball but interesting characters, too. (That's Benjamin Chamberlain, above, playing an alternately sweet and scarily unhinged lover of Ms Jaglom, who is shown below, with her less interesting but also less unhinged would-be paramour, played by Brandon Kirk.)

Moment to moment, the film is consistently amusing and fun, even if that two-by-four and it consequence threaten to derail things. We have a maybe psychic on board, too (played by famous acting coach Michelle Danner, below),  along with various and sundry Hollywood types -- agent, producer, manager, showrunner -- who add to the fun and games.

And then we have Ms Frederick, who -- if you are the kind of fan I am -- carries the movie along quite beautifully. She is the embodiment of the love of legitimate theater, along with the quest for fame and fortune, about as well as we've seen all this combined into one singular performer.

Ovation!, from Mr. Jaglom's The Rainbow Film Company and running 102 minutes, opens Friday, October 7, in New York City at the Cinema Village. Elsewhere? Eventually, I am sure. But for now, NYC only....

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