“Irene in Time” is another of Henry Jaglom’s amiable, discursive chamber pieces documenting the mild neuroses of the rich and voluble. Breezy and indulgent, his is a style that lives or dies on the appeal of his characters and performers, and this time he is mostly let down by both. Study of a young woman’s daddy issues exudes a certain likability and will draw upon the writer-director’s lingering faithful following to do limited boutique business in the wake of its Father’s Day weekend release.
Father-daughter relationships constitute the primary, if not only, focus of the film. Irene (Tanna Frederick) is a thirtysomething mourning the disappearance of her philandering gambler father, whom she idolizes, and her consequent inability to find a suitable boyfriend. In contrast to so many implausibly lonely romantic-comedy heroines, it is entirely understandable why Irene has such a tough time with men — glimpses of two of her dates constitute the film’s most queasily realistic scenes, as the oblivious and pushy protagonist badgers her increasingly uncomfortable suitors until they finally flee.
Jaglom addresses the character’s Electra complex head-on, and allows Irene and her coterie of friends to sit around discussing their complicated attitudes toward their fathers at length (no one in the film seems to have a job beyond lounging around various parlor rooms and grottos scattered across the glitzier districts of Los Angeles).
A loose plot kicks in when Irene discovers a cache of photographs belonging to her father’s mistress (Andrea Marcovicci) and, after tracking her down, begins to uncover a family secret. In between familial revelations, she consorts with a friend (Kelly De Sarla) eager to recruit her to lesbianism, while also being pursued by two men — one a sweet-talking bounder (Jack Maxwell), the other a music producer with distractingly huge biceps (Lanre Idewu).
The entire film has a relaxed, improvisatory air, but one wonders if a sterner directorial hand might have helped define the supporting characters, most of whom recede from memory as soon as they step offscreen. The same applies to the shakily drawn protag, whose behavior often suggests a hypersensitive 13-year-old trapped in an older woman’s body, and whose self-obsession quickly grows tiresome. In one of the pic’s rare moments of self-awareness, a relative of Irene’s observes, “You come from a long line of narcissists.” The rest of the time, the film seems to be as blissfully in love with the character as she is with herself, lending the entire enterprise an air of bloodless self-satisfaction.
Jaglom casts two of his young children in minor roles and, in a happy reversal of longtime Hollywood tradition, they deliver some of the film’s best moments, seeming far more at ease than many of the seasoned thesps on display.
Production values are top-notch, with nicely photographed Santa Monica locations and Altman-esque editing effectively carrying the pic through some rough patches. Action periodically halts for characters to sing original songs by Harriet Schock, to varying results.