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At a spacious house in Los Angeles, Helene is turning 40-years old and her friends whom include French filmmaker Martine, house guest Sophie, and Lydia throw her a party. But also there is Kate a friend turning 30, and Sadie a Hollywood film agent turning 50. So, all of Helene's, Kate's, and Sadie's friends arrive for the party where Martine films the events with her movie camera and the shocking secrets revealed by Helene's mother Whitney, and her younger sister Nancy whom confide in their interviews about their obsession with food, and their roles in life. Written by
One has to wonder about Henry Jaglom's mother, when he dedicates a film about women suffering from eating disorders to her. This is one of Jaglom's more successful efforts since there is some dramatic conflict amongst the cinema verite talkfest that is his trademark. One might even mistake this film as a documentary with all the to-the-camera discourse. Otherwise his camera is thankfully still, aided by the excuse of a Frenchwoman making a documentary at an exclusively female (and enormously populated) birthday party. Maybe it's a very "L.A." thing but it's shocking how so many beautiful women have food issues, and the association they make with food and sex, and food and love, makes for a compelling (for Jaglom) social study. He begins uncertainly, as the women gather. Jaglom gets a little carried away with cross-cutting, and there is a definite lesbian subtext which turns out to be misleading. But as the film develops our initial judgment of the women presented, as shallow and stupid gives way to depths of feeling and marvel at the openness and emotional accessibility of the female species. As the eldest of the group and the mother of Helene (Lisa Richards), who resides in the house where the celebrations occur, Frances Bergen represents the voice of reason and the sounding board for the confessions. Jaglom cleverly maintains our empathy for her, aided by Bergen's wonderful naturalness, even when her reaction to news of an infidelity defines the survival strategies of women of her generation. In spite of the heaviness of the subject, there is much humour to be found, partly from the women's own insight into their behaviour, and also from the idea of having Helene seek out the mistress under the guise of mingling. Richards' performance improves considerably after she stops pecking. As her predatory best friend, Gwen Welles adds some amusing spite to the proceedings. Her demonstration of the use of a present of anger-releasing padded poles gets a big laugh. It's no surprise to learn of Welles' bulimia since she looks anorexic, and she is about the only one who doesn't seem to think they are "fat". When the birthday cake is cut, no-one wants to eat it. Since the cast is so large some actors get lost in the mosaic, but mention should be made of Toni Basil in Carmen Miranda get-up as an actress quitting her agent ("If Michael Jackson can fire his father ..."); Aloma Ichinose who has a great riff about smoking; and Mary Crosby looking like a fawn and being very I-shot-JR in a bathroom confrontation. I particularly liked the line "I'm looking for a man who can excite me as much as a baked potato".
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