Just 45 Minutes from Broadway: Film Review
Henry Jaglom's show business-centric, dysfunctional family comedy/drama plays with theatrical conventions.
Henry Jaglom’s films have always featured a certain insularity, but it’s taken to extremes in the prolific director’s latest effort, Just 45 Minutes from Broadway. This Chekhovian-style comedy about a group of neurotic actors endlessly kibitzing during a weekend at a country house might have some appeal for self-absorbed thespians, but “civilians,” as they’re derisively referred to in the film, will find little of interest here.
Based on his successful 2009 stage play, the film is at times literally stage-bound itself, with a lengthy opening sequence shot in a theatrical style. The distancing device, echoed later in a breaking of the fourth wall, only serves to accentuate the hammy performances and stilted dialogue.
As usual, many members of the director’s repertory company—most notably his longtime leading lady Tanna Frederick—appear in this tale involving the emotionally tense reunion of two sisters at the home of their actor parents George (Jack Heller) and Vivien (Diane Salinger). Also living in the house are Uncle Larry (David Proval), a dinner theater actor who laments the missed career opportunities that went to others such as Robert DeNiro, and eccentric boarder Sally (Harriet Schock).
The first to arrive is Pandora (Frederick), despondent over a recent break-up and an acting career that seems to be going nowhere. She’s followed shortly thereafter by her sister Betsy (Julie Davis), a businesswoman who has little use for the arts, and her fiancé, James (Judd Nelson).
Filled with endless self-important shop talk about “acting,” the play recalls such other theater-centric works as The Royal Family, only minus the sophistication and wit. Even less interesting are the complicated family dynamics on display, with the rampant neuroticism of almost all the characters proving overbearing and the would-be shocking secrets revealed less than compelling.
With the exception of a mildly amusing Passover Seder sequence in which Jaglom regular Michael Emil makes an appearance, the tedious proceedings are mainly marked by the self-indulgence that afflicts so many of the filmmaker’s efforts. Among the generally over-the-top performances, Nelson’s low-key work stands out for its relative restraint.
Production: Rainbow Film Company.
Cast: Tanna Frederick, Judd Nelson, Diane Salinger, Jack heller, David Proval, Julie David, Harriet Schock.
Director/screenwriter: Henry Jaglom.
Producer: Rosemary Marks.
Directors of photography: Hanania Baer
Editor: Ron Vignone.
Costume designer: Cynthia Obsenares.
Rated R, 108 min.