Julie Davis and Judd Nelson star in "Just 45 Minutes From Broadway." (Rainbow Releasing )
Henry Jaglom films dare you to forego your appetite for slickness, cohesion and subtlety, and in the cases when they succeed, it's because the iconoclastic writer-director's upfront sincerity and satire — usually at the expense of Hollywood — are enough.
But his latest, "Just 45 Minutes From Broadway," an adaptation of his own play, is an investment in theatrical self-indulgence with diminishing returns.
A queasy paean to show folk, it concerns the fraught reunion of two estranged sisters — emotionally unstable New York stage actress Pandora (Jaglom's open nerve muse Tanna Frederick) and arts-averse businesswoman Betsy (Julie Davis) — at the country home of their stage vet parents (Jack Heller and Diane Salinger).
Betsy brings her "civilian" lawyer fiancé (Judd Nelson) to visit, and all manner of recriminations, speechifying and breakdowns occur as the family defends its commitment to naked emotionalism as if it were a last stand against soullessness. When Nelson's character starts warming to Betsy's kin against her wishes, it feels more like Stockholm syndrome than anything else.
An early scene at an extended-family Seder boasts Jaglom at his amusingly pokey, eavesdropping best. But elsewhere, the director's attempts at proscenium-style staginess, breaking the fourth wall and big-reveal storytelling fall flat.
Highlighting actors' flamboyance is nothing new, but "Just 45 Minutes From Broadway" drowns in it.
MPAA rating: R for some language
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena
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