Movie Review: ‘Loren & Rose’

Greetings again from the darkness. In addition to being a talented filmmaker, writer-director Russell Brown must be an admirer of movie history. His latest serves up tributes to some classics, and even borrows directly from some … the two most obvious being MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (1981) and CITIZEN KANE (1941). As evidence, the viewer will notice the vast majority of the film features two characters conversing over meals while dining in a restaurant, and the narrator walks us through his history and relationship with the most interesting and intriguing character.

Up and coming film director Loren (Kelly Blatz) is on the cusp of his debut feature film thanks to the film festival success of his recent short film. He’s meeting legendary actress Rose Martin (Jacqueline Bisset) at her favorite restaurant to discuss a lead role, which would be a comeback of sorts for the aging actress now best remembered for her turn in the cheesy “Mega-Gator’s Mom”. The young director is a bit insecure and anxious about this next career step, while Rose is impressed that he knows some of her more obscure work, and begins to steer the conversation deeper, offering advice and counseling – some which might be construed as manipulative to a degree.

Two framing structures are at play here. The straightforward one comes with title cards during the three meals when we see these two meet: Appetizer, Main Course, and Dessert. The appetizer is their getting to know each other and work towards the first film. The main course occurs after that first film when the two go much deeper into philosophy, art, relationships, etc. Finally, the dessert is served years later when the dynamics are much different for a number of reasons. The second structure is a recurring look at the auctioning off of Rose’s memorabilia and personal items. All of this blends to form an unusual friendship.

Veteran actor Paul Sand (“St Elsewhere”) deserves mention as Phil, Rose’s friend and the restaurateur who chats with them during their three meals. He adds an entertaining personality to the mostly talky proceedings. And in all fairness, it should be noted that many will find this a slow-moving, uneventful film with little in the way of plot. That would not be an incorrect conclusion, yet there is actually much going on here. These are two artistic personas from different generations and their exchanges take us down backroads of perspectives molded by their own experiences and expectations. Rose tries to guide Loren through her stories and opinions, and much of their dialogue involves the nuances of living and dying – Rose has learned, and Loren is learning.

Ms. Bisset is such a joy to watch, and she seems to be all-in for the role. She along with Jane Fonda, Charlotte Rampling, and others, have proven that fulfilling and interesting roles are being written for aging actresses, and they are certainly capitalizing on this. For this film, legendary actress Jacqueline Bisset plays (fictional) legendary actress Rose Martin, and we can’t help but apply some biographical symmetry. Filmmaker Russell Brown has infused some depth into her character, and then he memorably plays Sandy Denny’s version of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” over the closing credits. Judy Collins may have delivered a softer version, but it’s Ms. Denny who delivers a haunting interpretation of her own song.

In select theaters on June 23, 2023

David Ferguson

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