Asaga of a young woman adrift in contemporary L.A., “Naked Jane” makes some poignant observations about privilege and commitment. But its random style and disjointed narrative prove dramatic obstacles. Commercial prospects for the modestly produced debut feature are extremely limited on the domestic and international arthouse circuit.
Jane (Renee Stahl) is a twentysomething woman who ekes out a living by taking in typing while writing a novel on the side. It’s not that she’s unmotivated; more precisely, she lacks focus or drive. She also appears entrapped in a downward gyre of depression brought on by the memory of her father’s death, an undefined long-distance relationship and a new, largely inexplicable, romance with a sullen artist.
The challenge at the heart of writer/director Linda Kandel’s dramatic observation is in how to portray this prisoner of inertia empathetically. Pic’s relentless and unsparing, with the woman obstinate about making even the most minor decision. We’re confronted with leaden voiceover describing a kind of pap philosophy that further distances Jane from the audience.
The pace picks up somewhat in the closing section when Sam (Stefan Walker), the hitherto unseen absent boyfriend, arrives from a European modeling assignment. The young woman can no longer put off confrontation, but the resolution of this episode (and moment in her professional life) is ambivalent rather than cathartic.
Kandel’s casting only furthers the problem. Stahl, Walker and Christian Svensson as the artists take on poses that limit their accessibility.
“Naked Jane” is an exercise in frustration. It’s familiar enough territory in the indie sector but, unrelieved by humor or novelty, pic plods on without hope or insight.