The likes of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and a few other contemporary Hollywood train wrecks are probably in the sites of writer/director Henry Jaglom's Queen of the Lot, a mostly funny romantic drama that engages every single Hollywood cliché even as it stands them up for ridicule. The film is technically a sequel to Jaglom's Hollywood Dreams (2006), the director's first collaboration with muse Tanna Frederick. In that film, Frederick's narcissistic and conniving Margie Chizek arrives in Los Angeles, alienates everyone she knows and wheedles herself into the life of a noted director who puts her in movies. Three films on, Queen of the Lot finds the newly named Maggie Chase (Frederick) as a hot B movie actress known for being an out of control, two time rehab flunkey. If one has seen Hollywood Dreams this joke is even funnier, if one hasn't it's funny anyway, as is most of Queen of the Lot. Jaglom's films are distributed under his own Rainbow Releasing banner and on the indie distribution circuit with limited screen access. In the old days, Henry Jagolm films would linger in theatres for several weeks providing a limited but steady box office return. Films do not have this luxury in the current market.
In Hollywood Dreams Margie was just about as caustic a character as ever appeared onscreen, and shallow, too. Fresh off the bus from Iowa with a number of lies about her past, Margie was irritating, yet somehow endearing in the end. Maggie is infinitely less irritating but every bit as shallow as Margie ever was. The only thing she really wants (now) is to be a "real" moviestar, which is an upgrade from just "moviestar" (her original aspiration). Now Maggie would like to be at least as popular as Angelina Jolie---which may or may not be a joke. Jaglom was a protégé of Orson Welles and considers actresses like Lana Turner and Norma Shearer to be real moviestars. Yet, he's also cast Ms. Frederick, an actress with considerable talent and almost no mainstream recognition, as the lead in four of his films, which says something about how he values movie stardom presently. Perhaps a movie star is someone a director casts in his own movie, and nothing else.
In Queen of the Lot, Maggie is involved with an even more narcissistic "real" moviestar, Dov Lambert (Christopher Rydell), the leading man of an old Hollywood family of aging stars, directors and writers, each on the edge of obscurity and bankruptcy. Noah Wyle is the bastard son of the Lambert family. A failed writer who is nevertheless good, he is not an alcoholic and only has sex with one woman at a time. He falls for Maggie despite her foibles, but is aware the situation is ridiculous. In more than one excellent exchange of verbal sparring (worthy of Tracey and Hepburn), he questions his sanity for being attracted to someone as superficial as Maggie. Oblivious to his rebuke, she suggests he examine his own mental health. This movie is often hysterical, and sometime very sweet.
If one is familiar with the lineage of Henry Jaglom films, which includes some wonderfully funny and thoughtful movies ranging from Someone to Love and New Year's Day, to Eating, Babyfever, Festival in Cannes and a few others, one will appreciate Queen of the Lot as a nice addition to what will eventually make a lovely DVD boxed set.
Distributor: Rainbow Releasing
Cast: Tanna Frederick, Noah Wyle, Christopher Rydell, David Proval, Paul Sand and Zack Norman
Director/Screenwriter: Henry Jaglom
Producers: Rosemary Marks
Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Running time: 114 min
Release date: November 19 ltd.