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Irene in Time

Released: 2009

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 1 hr 35 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Henry Jaglom

Starring: Claudia Brown, Tanna Frederick, Victoria Tennant, Adam Davidson, Lanre Idewu, Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Black, Jack Maxwell, David Proval, Zack Norman

A film about the complex relationships between fathers and daughters.

The latest film by the quintessential indie writer and director Henry Jaglom.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

"You come from a long line of narcissists," Eleanor (Victoria Tennant) tells her daughter Irene (Tanna Frederick). In IRENE IN TIME, the latest film by the quintessential indie writer and director Henry Jaglom, the narcissist comment is both dead-on accurate and probably the chief reason why this film is likely to divide audiences, as it did ours. Some will find Irene, a self-centered blabbermouth, fascinating, since Frederick portrays her obnoxious character so well. Others will find the ever-annoying Irene, well, too annoying to be worth spending time with.

On the other hand, if movies were only made up of nice guys and winners of humanitarian awards, they would be pretty bland. And, while I love serial killer movies, I hope never to cross paths with one in real life. So I felt about Irene. I was quite intrigued by her, even if, at a cocktail party, I'd probably run the other way if I saw her coming.

While I like some of Jaglom's movies and not others, this one worked for me. Still, none of his movies have topped his ALWAYS from 1985, one of my all-time favorite films. (Please don't confuse this small picture with the big budget Hollywood picture of a few years later starring Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter.) Even when Jaglom flops, his failures still manage to have parts that make them almost worthwhile.

The story is told with frequent cuts to a studio where Irene belts out one tune after another, with my favorite being a little ditty with lines that include "Starbucks burning bright." Frederick told us after our screening of the film that she had never sung before, except in the shower, but was willing to give it a try. She probably will not be offered a recording contract based on her musicality, but her singing is quite pleasant to the ears.

The fairly unoriginal plot of IRENE IN TIME concerns Irene's lousy love life. Always on the hunt for a man, she almost runs screaming from a restaurant when an old beau, out of the blue, proposes marriage to her. More typical are her dates in which she tries so hard to be interested in her dinner companions that she scares them away. Although she is a voracious reader of such books as "Stop Getting Dumped," the books can't save her from herself.

When one date reluctantly tells her that he develops strip malls for a living, she gushes out a long string of over-the-top thoughts that are as shallow as they are disingenuous. The uncontrollably loquacious Irene ends a long string of nearly incomprehensible thoughts with, "mini-malls are so great!" The unlucky guy discovers that he can't find the exit fast enough.

Somehow, for all of her flaws, including an obsession with her dead father, Irene slowly and surprisingly worked her way into my heart. Because of this, I found the film's ending particularly effective and poignant.

What I did not realize at the time was that the ending was ambiguous. After our screening was over, the director polled our audience. As it turned out, about half of the audience interpreted the ending one way, while the other half had a completely different understanding of it. Moreover, until Jaglom did the poll, almost all of the audience did not realize the ending had any ambiguity whatsoever. For the record, we asked Frederick what the ending meant, but she would not comment, saying it was for every viewer to interpret it in their own way.