Meandering, talky film-industry satire never manages to rouse itself from a near-comatose level of self-satisfaction.
Henry Jaglom has carved himself a unique slot in indie film over his 40-year career, regularly churning out idiosyncratic projects of wildly varying merit. In some films he seems a gifted director with a discipline problem; in others, a slipshod hobbyist with inexplicable access to funding. “Queen of the Lot,” a sequel to his 2006 pic “Hollywood Dreams,” showcases the director in the latter mold, and this meandering, talky film-industry satire never manages to rouse itself from a near-comatose level of self-satisfaction. Jaglom’s small but committed fan club should turn up for this limited release.
Tanna Frederick reprises her role as childlike aspiring starlet Maggie Chase from “Hollywood Dreams,” having since become a B-level action star forced to wear a Lindsay Lohan-esque electronic ankle bracelet after collecting one too many DUIs.
Under house arrest and stalked by paparazzi, Maggie holes up with her bad-boy actor boyfriend, Dov (Christopher Rydell, wearing a leather jacket even while sunbathing poolside). A scion of Hollywood royalty, Dov invites her to a series of dinner parties at his palatial family home, and Maggie begins gravitating toward his failed-screenwriter brother (cast standout Noah Wyle), who possesses the advantage of not being a married, compulsive-gambler degenerate.
We see Maggie attend an addiction therapy meeting, but the ankle-bracelet conceit seems more a sop to contemporary Hollywood gossip trends than anything relevant to the story, as do most of the film’s lackadaisical narrative strands. Some ludicrous late-breaking plot developments try to push the story into gear, but they merely lay bare the film’s lack of momentum, already slowed by such indulgences as shooting the assembled characters singing several full-length Christmas carols, mostly out of tune.
“Queen” is the third consecutive Jaglom film Frederick has toplined, and while she’s a perfectly adequate and at times charming actress, she lacks the experience or magnetism to anchor an entire feature; that Jaglom requires her to play a leading lady as well as be one does her no favors. A menagerie of interesting supporting players show up here (including Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Sand and Kathryn Crosby), but many of them seem clumsily wedged in.
As usual, Jaglom has an agreeably breezy touch with the camera, and an Altman-inspired knack for slipping in and out of conversations like an unobtrusive party guest. If the evidently improvised dialogues into which he was intruding had more spark, this would be an effective technique — as it is, it merely gives the entire film an added degree of nonchalance, which is precisely the last thing it needs.