The M Word: Film Review

The filmmaker once again exploits his feminine side with his latest femme-targeted opus.

The latest effort by the prolific Henry Jaglom explores female attitudes toward menopause.

Independent filmmaker Henry Jaglom has long displayed a knack for getting in touch with his feminine side, a trait he again manages to exploit in his latest effort. After exploring female attitudes toward such subjects as shopping, eating and pregnancy in previous films, he now turns his attention to menopause in the cutely titled The M Word, featuring his usual loosely improvisational style in which his characters are given the latitude to freely express themselves at length, even if you may not be in the mood for hearing it.

His frequent leading lady Tanna Frederick plays the central role of Moxie, the appropriately named star of a children’s show on a struggling Los Angeles television station. Moxie’s life is disrupted upon the arrival of Charlie Moon (Michael Imperioli), a network executive from New York who’s been assigned the task of finding out who’s been embezzling the station’s funds and, in the process, weeding out its less desirable employees.

Although they would seem to be natural enemies, Moxie and Charlie immediately hit it off, striking up a secret romance complicated by their respective positions and her unsatisfying relationship with her producer boyfriend (Corey Feldman). Meanwhile, she comes up with the idea for a menopause-themed documentary, inspired by the current plight of her mother (Frances Fisher) and two aunts (Mary Crosby, Eliza Roberts).

Their burgeoning relationship doesn’t stop the besotted Charlie from quickly lowering the boom, laying off numerous station employees, including longtime sports show host Mack (Gregory Harrison), who also happens to be Moxie’s stepfather. Moxie retaliates by organizing an impromptu rebellion in which the workers chain themselves together and refuse to leave the premises.

It’s not hard to get the feeling that director/co-writer Jaglom is less interested in these strained plot mechanics than in providing the opportunity for many of the women to deliver alternately acerbic and emotional comments about the titular subject, such as one wondering, “What if I’m not as moist as I always used to be?” Needless to say, these observations will be catnip to the largely femme viewers Jaglom's films tend to attract, while any accompanying men will probably be left squirming uncomfortably. Perhaps as a sop to the latter, one of the film’s principal male characters asserts late in the proceedings that menopause is not a condition strictly suffered by women.

While the central love story is enjoyably depicted -- Frederick’s frisky Moxie and Imperioli’s tightly wound Charlie make for an amusingly contrasting couple -- the melodramatic storyline involving the station’s fortunes, symbolically mirroring the plight of the older women who feel their identity threatened, feels generic and familiar. The indulgently paced film also is far too generous in allowing its  characters to natter on incessantly.

Although unlikely to make any new converts, The M Word should well satisfy the filmmaker’s small legion of devoted fans. Jaglom aficionados will appreciate the brief appearances by such veteran members of his longtime stock company as Zack Norman and Michael Emil (Sitting Ducks), among others. By the time the film ends with a rendition of a tuneful ditty about menopause, they’ll no doubt feel like they’ve spent two hours in the company of old friends.

Opens April 30 (Rainbow Film Company)

Cast: Tanna Frederick, Michael Imperioli, Robert Hallack, Corey Feldman, Frances Fisher, Mary Crosby, Eliza Roberts, Gregory Harrison

Director: Henry Jaglom

Screenwriters: Henry Jaglom, Ron Vignone

Producer: Rosemary Marks

Director of photography: Hanania Baer

Editors: Ron Vignone, Henry Jaglom

Rated R, 120 min.