Jake Squared
dir-scr Howard Goldberg
prd Howard Goldberg, Elias Koteas, David K Wilson
with Elias Koteas, Mike Vogel, Kevin Railsback, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Virginia Madsen, Jane Seymour, Liana Liberato, Gia Mantegna, Tanner Buchanan, Meredith Salenger, Ron Gilbert, Kerry Stein
release UK Sep.13 rff, US Nov.13 baff
13/US 1h41
Jake Squared
Jake at 17 and 30: Railsback and Koteas

vogel leigh madsen
raindance film fest
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Jake Squared There's a surreal charm to this odd comedy-drama, although it's so relentlessly self-absorbed that it probably can't make sense to anyone other than the writer-director himself. It touches on important issues, but since every scene is a navel-gazing fantasy, there's no level that engages with us.

With getting a movie off the ground so difficult in Hollywood, 50-year-old musician-filmmaker Jake (Koteas) has decided to shoot something autobiographical. He hires a handsome actor (Vogel) to play himself, but keeps interfering so he can relive his youth. He also includes versions of himself at 17 (Railsback), 30 and 40 (both Koteas), showing his various stages of reinvention. Meanwhile, Jake's kids (Mantegna and Buchanan) continually interrupt things, as does the love of his life, Joanne (Liberato and Seymour), his best pal Beth (Madsen) and his last girlfriend Sheryl (Leigh).

This is a jarring series of scenes circling in on themselves with little connective logic. Even with present-day Jake narrating to-camera, it's not easy to follow. Random versions of characters both living and dead wander in and out of each scene, trying to steal the spotlight from each other. Plus continual on-screen quotes from filmmakers and philosophers, many of which have nothing to do with the story. The ultimate message about accepting life as it comes is decent, but it's expressed through trite moralising ("be the person you designed").

Goldberg's writing and direction strain to be witty and observant, cranking up the wackiness without finding any actual humour. He clearly wants everything to be insightful, but he's merely throwing out existential questions without scratching the surface. There's also the fact that, with Jake portrayed in so many disparate incarnations, we never actually have a sense of him as a person, so we never care about his soul-searching.

All of this plays out like It's a Wonderful Life thrown into a shredder. There are some strong scenes along the way, nicely played by the cast. But it's so self-aware that any raw emotions or genuine observations are undermined by another wink at the camera. In this sense, the film feels like Goldberg's mid-life crisis project. But since he's in the middle of it, he hasn't yet found anything meaningful to say or a coherent way to express it.

cert 15 themes, language 30.Sep.13 rff

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall