Henry Jaglom's new film Just 45 Minutes From Broadway is a quirky family dramedy with some great performances by its talented ensemble cast. Jaglom wrote it first as a play that ran for a full year at The Edgemar Center Theater in Santa Monica. I saw the play, twice, and loved it. I wasn't sure how it would translate to film, but it did beautifully.
The Isaacs are an eccentric family of actors. George (Jack Heller), comes from a long line of actors that dates back to the Yiddish theater. He has been married to Vivian (Diane Salinger), also an actress, for a very long time. Their youngest daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick) has come home to nurse her wounds after a long-term relationship ended. Pandora is an actress as well and struggling both personally and professionally. Betsy (Julie Davis) the older daughter has run from the acting business and become a "civilian" living a normal working life. She brings her fiancé Jimmy (Judd Nelson) home for the weekend to meet her family.
George and Vivian are getting older and are having a tough time financially. They have taken in a ditzy boarder, Sally (Harriet Schock) to help makes ends meet. Vivian's brother Larry (David Proval) is also living with them while he's doing a production of Guys and Dolls. All the characters are a little odd, dramatic, vulnerable and lovable.
The story, without giving too much away, revolves around the tension between Pandora, her sister Betsy and Jimmy.
Jack Heller and Diane Salinger are very believable as husband and wife and as actors. Diane is stunning and such a joy to watch. Jack is the quintessential handsome older man who is lovable in his foibles, including his insomnia and addiction to sleeping pills. They share details of their long union that shock their daughters and add a dose of reality to their long-term marriage.
Tanna Frederick is excellent as Pandora. She is volatile and extremely present each moment she is on the screen. Tanna is exciting to watch. You never know what you are going to get. Julie Davis is equally good as Betsy. She plays the least likable character in such a way that we care about her and understand how alienated she felt growing up in a family she didn't feel she fit into to. Judd Nelson is a surprise as Jimmy. I was a big fan of his back in The Breakfast Club days and happy to see him on-screen again. His character changes the most in the story and Judd does a good job of making us believe that he has been pretending to be someone he is not most of his life.
David Proval is touching and tragic as Larry, the down on his luck actor. Harriet Schock as the ditzy boarder, adds a light-hearted funny tone to the film.
Just 45 Minutes From Broadway is not a typical Jaglom film. It is mostly scripted. There is a scene at Passover dinner that feels like classic Jaglom, otherwise it's a departure from what I have come to think of as signature Jaglom.
It's an inside view into what it's like to live a creative life. In this case, it's a tribute to actors. The film also beautifully touches on the idea that we are all actors. George says to Vivian, "We are all actors. The only difference is, we get paid for it." Jaglom speaks through Pandora who says, "I can't tell what is acting and what is real anymore, and I'm not sure I want to." It's an artful treatment of life, love and creativity. It's also about finding the courage to be one's self, even if that means going against the norm.
Watching the film I felt like I was eavesdropping on intimate family dialogue. Some of it was painful, some tender and all very real. This is Jaglom's strong suit. His ability to observe and show us what he sees. It's like this quote from Tennessee Williams,
All of us require a witness. A witness who will let us -- and the world -- know that we have lived, that we have contributed. As artists we need to know that our contributions mattered, touched the heart, evoked a thought, led someone else off to their own pale judgment to scribble something out. When we create characters, we are witnesses to ourselves and to those to whom we have reacted, to those we have loved, to those who inspire us.
The greatest artists are, I think, witnesses. They have been, to steal a line, present at the creation... of whatever they have seen.
Henry Jaglom is a unique voice in the cinema. Just 45 Minutes From Broadway is a fabulous example of his artistry and his vision. Don't miss it!
Opening October 3rd in Los Angeles and Southern California at the Laemmle theaters. October 17 in New York and in wide release in late Fall.