Film Review: Just 45 Minutes from Broadway

Self-indulgent drama in which braying actors spout utter twaddle about the Thea-tah.

Henry Jaglom strains to be Anton Chekhov for the Millennium in Just 45 Minutes from Broadway, a would-be love letter to theatre actors which just could make you loathe the entire profession. He takes his always in-your-face muse, Tana Frederick, and casts her front and center as Pandora, an unemployed actress who seeks refuge at the country home of her thespian parents, George (Jack Heller) and Vivien (Diane Salinger). Even more actors congregate there: Uncle Larry (David Proval, snore-worthy) and family friend Sally (Harriet Schock, with the worst Southern accent since Olympia Dukakis in Steel Magnolias). They are all windy, whimsical bores, endlessly reminiscing and hamming away happily, when Pandora’s theatre-averse sister Betsy (Julie Davis, ultra-snippy) arrives with her real-estate salesman fiancé James (Judd Nelson, who must be desperate for work these days).

“Civilians!” is the war cry heard often here, referring to non-showbiz folk, and coming from Jaglom’s pen it has a tiresome, heavy-handed, juvenile, exclusive ring to it. At one point, a dreary George bemoans his having come up through the ranks with talents like directors John Frankenheimer and Sidney Lumet, who never cast him, and watching Robert De Niro and Al Pacino pass him by while he had to remain a minor character actor. Tears pouring down her face, Vivien brays her unstinting support of and respect for him. “You managed to change a life!” she cries (without specifying exactly whose). “That’s enough!”

Many more tears are shed in this completely self-indulgent morass. Nobody here exhibits anything like the talent or charisma which would warrant anyone’s interest in them, let alone an entire theatre audience. And then there’s Frederick, who delivers an unredeemably grotesque performance which hits one of many low points when she arrives late for a family dinner, filthy from having been in a swamp watching bullfrogs mate, which she describes in excruciating detail. Her character’s name, often shortened to “Panda,” recalls the similarly monickered Renee Taylor, also playing a talentless actress in Made for Each Other (1970), a film which had all of the winsome charm and humor Jaglom so lacks here.