The story of “Jane’s House” is low-key and hardly crisis-ridden, with the only moment of excitement in Eric Roth’s script coming near the end. Still, the situations seem natural and unforced under Glenn Jordan’s direction — like an episode of “Eight Is Enough,” maybe — and the show delivers simple pleasures for a wind-down from all those New Year’s football games.
James Woods and Anne Archer star in the warmhearted drama, with one scene set in a Christmas tree lot tying it to the holidays.
The titular domicile of “Jane’s House” is an abode wherein Paul and Jane lived happily until Jane’s fatal heart attack. For the next year, Paul and the couple’s two children have been trying unsuccessfully to get their lives back on track.
Paul (Woods) has been moping around the house, ignoring the business he shares with his brother Charlie (Graham Beckel).
Paul’s children are having their own problems with their mother’s absence. Sixteen-year-old Hilary (Missy Crider) is especially contrary; younger brother Bobby (Keegan Macintosh) is more confused than anything else.
Though she tries, neighbor and local eccentric (she defiantly smokes cigarettes in public) Marion (Diane D’Aquila) tries to help, with only moderate success.
Into all of this steps Mary (Archer), a former tennis star who’s now repping professional athletes; Paul and Charlie are trying to arrange in-store appearance by an inexpensive jock.
Mary and Paul immediately fall for one another; the remainder of movie follows their courtship and its aftermath, and the children’s gradual acceptance of their new stepmother.
Seeing Woods, usually cast as a nerve-end on wheels, play a relatively composed role will be a novelty for many of his fans. This may be the first vehicle in which a woman tells his character, “You know, you’re very easy to be with.”
Archer is fine as a capable professional coming close to nest-feathering for the first time and quite unsure of herself, and the rest of the cast delivers: Beckel, especially, is a face to watch, and D’Aquila does a fine job in another of the film’s better-written small parts.
Film looks OK, though no effort is made to make Vancouver locations exciting or even novel.