Henry Jaglom has often seemed to be making films primarily for the amusement of himself and his collaborative clique, but seldom have the results seemed of such complete disinterest to anyone else as in “Just 45 Minutes From Broadway,” adapted from his 2009 play and partially, awkwardly shot onstage. An ostensible paean to the thesping profession and its wacky, lovable practitioners, this dysfunctional-family/romantic seriocomedy in fact occasions plenty of bad acting, making this an interminable belabor of love that will have trouble finding an audience in any format.
Jaglom’s muse, top-billed Tana Frederick, starts out in thankfully muted form as underemployed thesp Pandora Isaacs, fleeing a relationship in Manhattan to coddle her depression at the rural home of her parents, pretentious windbag George (Jack Heller) and mediating Vivien (Diane Salinger). Also in residence are Southern-belle boarder Sally (Harriet Schock) and dinner-theater regular Uncle Larry (David Proval). They’re all actors, which in this self-congratulating universe means overbearing, childish narcissists prone to tantrums and tears at the drop of a hat — all of which are meant to be adorable. Pandora et al. abandon any remaining restraint upon the arrival of sis Betsy (Julie Davis) and her fiance, James (Judd Nelson), two “civilians” (i.e. non-showbiz types) who are concerned with money and other shallow pursuits beneath the interest of true artistes.
After attending a Passover seder presided over by longtime Jaglom regular Michael Emil, the sisters settle down to attacking one another, James inexplicably shows signs of attraction toward Pandora, and ridiculous family secrets are unburdened.
Pic makes no bones at times about being, in part, a videotaped stage play, even breaking the fourth wall once or twice. The artifice seems intended to heighten the very loose similarity to such classic crazy-family legit comedies as “You Can’t Take It With You” and “The Royal Family,” also suggested by a soundtrack that includes numerous Tin Pan Alley oldies. But those earlier plays had witty dialogue and a winking attitude toward their “all the world’s a stage” message. Here, much of the dialogue sounds like improv that should have been shelved in early rehearsals. The indulged performers, including Frederick, don’t do Jaglom any favors by descending to sometimes amateurishly hammy levels while arguing that acting provides healing “freedom to let your emotions show” — and that nonstop over-the-top theatricality is somehow more honest than normal life.
Tech/design aspects are uneven.