Irene in Time -- Film Review

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Henry Jaglom's "Irene in Time," his 16th as writer-director, is an overly familiar female-centric therapy session shot in picturesque Santa Monica. What makes the self-released film a bit more accessible is its heroine, the Daddy-obsessed singleton Irene, and an onscreen jazz combo -- with the film's lead actress as vocalist -- featuring Harriet Schock's original songs punctuating a treacly story line. Commercial prospects are meager, but single females might be wooed to rent it.

Irene Jensen (Tanna Frederick, the director's most recent muse), plays a 30ish woman trying to figure out why she's never landed Mr. Right. We witness a few amusing dinner dates with boyfriends and setups, but Irene spends most of her time commiserating with her women friends and trying to make sense out of conflicting advice from her library of self-help books.

Not helping her longing for true love is Irene's fanatical devotion to her father, who literally sailed off into the sunset when she was a child. Her mother, Eleanor (Victoria Tennant), lives nearby, but Mom's chilly personality offers little comfort to Irene in her quest for a new daddy figure.

As with most Jaglom ventures, it's the female bonding that gets the bulk of the screen time. Karen Black (wasted here) is the senior member of a group who features mostly girlfriends of Irene's own age. Her best friend is Jo Jo (Kelly De Sarla), a laid-back lesbian.

As it progresses, the story starts to shift, as the banalities of blind dating give way to a search for the truth about Dad's life and death. A mystery woman, cabaret singer Helen Dean (cabaret singer/actress Andrea Marcovicci), becomes the focus of Irene's obsession. Marcovicci's few scenes provide the best moments of the film.

Unfortunately, whatever father/daughter, time/memory, music/therapy issues Jaglom is striving to invoke here come across as mostly psychobabble and immaturity. One would surmise from the examples of men on screen that sincerity and fidelity are not part of the male make-up whereas a woman's emotions are always pure and noble. (The filmmaker says that a number of 1940s romantic dramas of love and death were his inspiration here.)

Frederick's performance would have benefited from being less the wide-eyed naif and more forceful, as Irene's simpering and fanatical daddy obsession wear out their welcome long before the film's conclusion (which, by the way, has to be seen to be believed).

Reni Santoni and Jaglom regular Zack Norman kibbitz in the opening scene as they relate wild tales of pop's heyday, but then disappear from view. The director's young son, Simon Orson Jaglom, has a bit as a palm-reading child in the park, while his daughter, Sabrina Jaglom, is amusing as another stranger, a girl at an adjacent restaurant booth dining with her dad, who offers Irene life lessons.

Independent to the end, Jaglom shot this in 35 millimeter (the only digital bit at all is a brief montage sequence), using his longtime cinematographer, Hanania Baer.

Opens: Friday, June 19 (Rainbow Releasing)
Production company: Rainbow Pictures
Cast: Tanna Frederick, Andrea Marcovicci, Victoria Tennant, Karen Black, Lanre Idewu, Jack Maxwell, David Proval, Zack Norman, Kelly De Sarla, Reni Santoni, Adam Davidson, Harriet Schock
Director-screenwriter: Henry Jaglom
Producer: Rosemary Marks
Director of photography: Hanania Baer
Production designer: Barbara Drake
Music: Harriet Schock
Costume designer: Cynthia Obsenares
Editor: Henry Jaglom
Rated PG-13, 94 minutes