Judge P.S. Colbert wonders how many critics would continue to use the word "pretentious" after learning its true meaning.
"For all actors and actresses…and the families that have refused to disown them."
Guess who's coming to Seder?
Why, it's Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), all grown up, conservatively dressed and clean shaven, as the gentile James, experiencing his first Passover dinner in the company of fiancée Betsy Isaacs (Julie Davis, All Over The Guy), and her self-described secular Jewish family (in other words, they only observe their faith on high holidays).
A theatrical troupe, the Isaacs clan proudly traces their artistic—and true spiritual—heritage all the way back to Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, founders of the American Yiddish Theatre on New York City's Lower East Side in the late nineteenth century.
Well, all but Betsy, who's uncomfortable at the very least about the impression James will get after meeting her vain, Ambien-abusing father, George (Jack Heller, Trapped In Paradise), hippie-chick mother Vivien (Diane Salinger, Batman Returns), boisterous, effusive Uncle Larry (David Proval, The Sopranos)—whom George derisively calls "Mr. Dinner Theater"—and last, but probably, most: her sister Pandora (Tanna Frederick, Queen Of The Lot).
Seven years Betsy's junior, Pandora (or "Panda," or "Pandy," depending on who's addressing her) is her polar opposite. Born for the stage, with greasepaint running through her veins, Pandora seems entirely unable to turn off the tap of her free-flowing emotions; something that's ill-served her in the "civilian" world her big sister escaped to in a desperate search for normalcy.
Mostly set in the large, ramshackle Isaacs family home and the bucolic environs surrounding, 45 Minutes from Broadway betrays are influences of Ingmar Bergman's cinema and Tennessee Williams' stage, all the while remaining pure Henry Jaglom (Sitting Ducks), who adapted his own play for the screen.
Apparently undaunted by the challenge of making the transformation from stage to screen, Jaglom actually makes great use of both mediums, ending up with an intensely theatrical film, due in no small part to the excellent contributions of cinematographer Hanania Baer and editor Ron Mignone, both longtime Jaglom associates. Some scenes are actual live performances from the show's successful run in Los Angeles (which featured the exact same cast, save for Nelson), mixed and matched with shoots from other locations, both indoor and outdoor.
Breaking Glass has made a nice presentation of the film, sharply presented in anamorphic widescreen, with 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo options for audio. For your second viewing, you have the option of screening with a commentary track featuring Jaglom and the cast principals. There are also numerous deleted scenes (including several from live performance) and "selected scenes," which functions as a sort of greatest hits compilation of the feature. Finally, there's the film's theatrical trailer for posterity, and trailers of other Jaglom films for future consideration.
Though I'd written many down, I ultimately resisted quoting lines of the rich dialog contained herein. After all, 45 Minutes from Broadway represents the strength of fine ensemble work, making the singling out of one sentence here, one scene there, and one performance above the others a futile exercise. I found the whole "actors" vs. "civilians" concept a bit labored, and were I forced to, I could easily have shortened the work by two (perhaps) three scenes.
That said, I have no problem recommending this charming, sophisticated and wonderfully performed family portrait; a welcome respite from costumed crime fighting teams and gross-out "comedies." Here's the latest work of a fiercely independent and utterly unique film maker. Keep 'em coming, Mr. Jaglom!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Breaking Glass
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