Thursday, September 16, 2010

Film Review: Someone to Love

"Someone to Love" *** (out of ****)

When Henry Jaglom made "Someone to Love" (1988) he was 46 years old. At that point in his life Jaglom asked the question, why is his generation, the baby boomers, so alone? Why are so many of his friends either single or divorced. But, because it is a Henry Jaglom film, the answer to that question we be given to us from a female perspective.

"Someone to Love" starts off with a couple, Danny (Jaglom) and his girlfriend Helen (Andrea Marcovicci). They have been going on for six months but it is not a serious relationship. She is newly single and wants to enjoy her single life. She's not looking to rush into anything. In fact, Danny has never spent the night at her place. On this particular night they discuss the issue.

This scene is intercut with, what is simply credited as "Danny's friend" (Orson Welles, in his last screen performance) discussing theories of the theatre. But his words seem to reflect the current state of relationships and the ways the genders view them.

During these opening moments I was starting to fall pretty hard for the film. I was prepared to call it Jaglom's best film. At this point the film started to remind me of Alain Resnais' "Mon Oncle d'Amerique" (1980).

Like all of Jaglom's films this one had a personal quality to it. The performances are naturalistic and have an improvised feel to them. Jaglom is a very gifted actor with a wonderful screen presence. He has great chemistry with Marcovicci. We truly believe they are a couple. They speak and act like real people. We can see ourselves in them. We can see ourselves having the same conversations.

In these opening moments Jaglom seems to be making the case all people want to do is connect to someone. We all want to find someone special, "someone to love". This got me thinking about today's dating world. I bet Jaglom could make a film out of the topic of Internet dating. People have given up meeting other people in bars and real life and have resorted to the Internet. We are all so hungry to make a connection. Online dating is big business.

And for some reason these sequences really connected with me. I could relate to the theme and the characters. Another interesting scene involves Danny and his brother Mickey (played by Jaglom's real life brother Michael Emil, who has appeared in a few of Jaglom's films) and talking about relationships. Mickey says he just can't meet someone. Or more aptly, he can never meet the right woman at the right time. There is always some obstacle standing in his way. So Danny gets an idea. Why not throw a party with the hidden agenda of finding someone for Mickey.

But Jaglom throws more into the pot. The film now takes place at an abandon movie theatre, which had been around since 1911. A demolition crew is going to tear it down to make way for a shopping mall. It also happens to be Valentine's Day. So Danny has sent out invitations to all his friends telling them to met him at the theatre for a party. But Danny's true intentions are to make a documentary on why people are lonely.

Some of the guest include a famous actress, Edith (Sally Kellerman) and Yelena (Oja Kodar, who was romantically linked to Welles). Danny asks his guest, mostly women, if they ever thought, at this point in their lives, they would still be single? Have their childhood dreams of one day falling in love and getting married come true? Do they still secretly wish for that?

It is at this point "Someone to Love" takes the wrong turn most Jaglom films take. The film now largely consist of "talking heads" explaining the dating scene and whether or not they are happy being single.

Jaglom has often used this approach. He takes a single idea and runs with it. But all he merely does is ask a question and then ask every single member of the cast that same question so we get 20 different answers. He has done this with "Eating" (1990) which was about women's views on eating and sex. Then there was "Babyfever" (1994) about a woman's urge to motherhood. Next came "Going Shopping" (2005) and what does shopping really mean to women.

All of these movies start out promising because they have a story and then they abandon the story and go for the talking heads approach. I'm usually not a fan of this strategy. I think "Someone to Love" could have been a much more effective film if Jaglom had centered it around his character, Helen, Mickey and maybe Edith and kept cutting to Welles making his theatre observations which are really code for today's relationships.

The film also tries to suggest, the reason people today are lonely is because of the sexual revolution and the women lib movement. For a film made in 1988 I think this concept is a bit out of date. If Jaglom wanted to make a film commenting on the women's lib movement and the effects it would have on society and dating I think he waited too long. Why not make it in the 70s or early 80s. Not at the end of the decade.

When I first heard of the film I thought it was going to be Jaglom's "8 1\2" (1963). That movie centered around a filmmaker trying to make a movie and recalling the women in his lives. In "Someone to Love" Danny is a director also. But instead of movies Danny was going to incorporate the stage. But "Someone to Love" is nowhere near as good as that movie. The film doesn't even examine theatre people in the same way Bergman films like "After the Rehearsal" (1984) or "The Rite" (1969) did. Jaglom isn't reaching for that same profound, intellectual level.

But if I seem to have some problems with the film, why am I recommending it? The movie, despite everything, has some wonderful moments. Jaglom really impressed me with his screen presense. It is wonderful to see Orson Welles here. And the dialogue between him and Jaglom makes me wonder how much of this film was improvised. Their conversation is too perfect. It flows so smoothly. You can't write dialogue this good. By the end of the film it seems Welles is improvising.

Considering the films Jaglom has made, this one ranks among his best. It is the easiest of his films to watch. It could be a good introduction into the way Jaglom works. Though it is true I feel when he works more with a structured story his films come out better; "Tracks" (1977), "Deja Vu" (1998) and "Festival in Cannes" (2002).

Henry Jaglom is a talented filmmaker. It is a shame more people aren't aware of his work. His films have a much different vibe than a Hollywood mainstream picture. Jaglom's films are more personal. You can tell Jaglom puts a lot of himself in his movies. They are a labor of love. He makes exactly the kind of film he wants to make. You have to respect that. "Someone to Love" has some fine moments.