Review: Queen of the Lot (2010)

Henry Jaglom's Queen of the Lot is an arty, eccentric, smart, eclectic, quirky, joyful, honest, parodic, sincere and beautiful look at some Hollywood folks who are, too. It walks a very interesting line between realistic drama and over-the-top comedy to produce a compelling and eminently watchable love story/fame story.

The great Tanna Frederick plays Maggie Chase, a newly minted Hollywood star with her action films, the "Red Wrecker" series, of which the latest, and most complimented was Red Wrecker III, which features, in clips shown in the film, Frederick kung fu fighting with people dressed as seventies street hoods in the stunning location of a storefront martial arts studio. It's wonderful. Miss Chase is obviously also now the target of frenzied papparazzi attention, and has been required by the court to wear an ankle bracelet monitor after a drunken driving incident.

If you don't love this film already, I can't help you.

I had never seen Tanna Frederick in anything before this, though I now understand she's been showing up regularly in films by Henry Jaglom for a while now. She's phenomenal, one of the greatest young actresses I have seen on film in any context. She draws no line between humor and drama, she just plays the heck out of every great opportunity she could possibly get to show us this character and really sell it, broadly at times, and more subtly where necessary. She successfully hits notes I don't know that I've ever seen attempted before on film. It's astonishingly good.

I had never seen any Henry Jaglom film before Queen of the Lot, either. Not even the previous film to which this one is a sequel, Hollywood Dreams. And there are lots more of them. So that could be fun to investigate. He tells a story seemingly by waving his hand at this cast which, I now also understand, is made up of many family members, frequent collaborators (and frequent "Sopranos" contributors). The whole cast is superb, bonkers, wonderfully moving and absurd.

Noah Wyle is particularly good as Aaron Lambert, a writer and second son of a Hollywood producing/acting family including patriarch producer Louis Lambert (veteran character actor Jack Heller, perfect) and mother Elizabeth (Kathryn Crosby), Maggie's boyfriend/big brother/action star/addict Dov (Christopher Rydell, awesome), sister Frances (Mary Crosby) and her husband Pedja (Peter Bogdonavich), an opinionated, storytelling film director, and a younger sister, Zoe (Sabrina Jaglom, the director's daughter, very good), who's also nuts. Is she a sister? I'm unclear. Some other people might be family, or hangers-on like accountant-having-nervous-breakdown Odin Johannessen (Dennis Christopher), assistant Ernesto (Paul Sand, outstanding) or the family's piano accompanist (Edward Sayegh). Actress Shaelynn (Daisy White) is Dov's ex-wife.

Maggie finds herself staying with the family after decamping from her own home, swarmed by the press after her court hearing, and her patrons' incredible home, when she's invited to spend the holidays with the Lamberts. Her Hollywood patrons are a couple, Caesar and Kaz, played by David Proval and Zack Norman. Caesar owns a dress shop and plays cards. They have stunning sculptures. They don't exit the story when Maggie leaves theirs for the Lamberts' stunning abode.

The ending goes wild, and it's brilliantly funny. I could not stop watching it even when the reels snapped and there was a half-hour intermission. It's a loving and moving parody/tribute to Hollywood. The cast are splendid and amazing.

So, anyway, I'll have to hold my official Jaglom conversion until I can see more of his films. I will. If you're in the mood for something weird, sunny, offbeat, I think you'll find Queen of the Lot quite a nice time. Tanna Frederick is quite a great new discovery, at least for me. I might be late in noticing.

The Magic of the Movies


Blogger Melanie said...

Great review. I loved Queen of the Lot, too. Tanna Frederick and Noah Wyle have sizzling onscreen chemistry. I agree with other reviewers who favorably compare Frederick and Wyle to Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. It's a wonderful film, reminiscent of old Hollywood.

1/9/11, 9:24 PM  
Blogger MattWill said...

I saw Queen of the Lot and it's my favorite Tanna Frederick film so far and I didn't think Hollywood Dreams could be topped but everything about Queen of the Lot was great - the acting, the story, the romance with Noah Wyle's character and the hilarious supporting cast.

1/9/11, 9:28 PM  
Blogger SallyB said...

Wow! Henry Jaglom has outdone himself. What a blast with Tanna Frederick and Noah Wyle's beautiful onscreen chemistry.  There's humor, drama, romance and a few OHMYGAWD! moments. It tops Hollywood Dreams, in my opinion - and I loved Hollywood Dreams. There are whole new levels of comedy and drama, and I love that step back into the snappy 40s Hollywood movie dialog.

1/9/11, 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Harriet Schock said...

What a perceptive review. I also loved "Queen of the Lot" and I've seen every film Tanna Frederick has ever made. She never stops amazing me. The cast supporting her is phenomenal and Noah Wyle has layers of subtlety that take repeated viewings to appreciate fully. I've seen it 3 times. The ice cream scene is one of my favorite scenes ever.

1/10/11, 10:08 AM  

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