Tanna Frederick And James Denton Dazzle In Henry Jaglom’s ‘Ovation,’ An Authentic Classic, One With Oscar Written All Over It.
Henry Jaglom’s latest film “Ovation” is probably his best in years. The beautiful and enigmatic Tanna Frederick (Maggie) finds herself surrounded by theatre actors and the fascinating lives behind the curtains of Broadway, or in this case the L.A. stage at Santa Monica’s Edgemar Theatre for the Arts. The film’s handsome leading man is James Denton (Stewart), who does some of the best work in his distinguished career, as a man who is sent to the theatre on one mission, and then finds himself like all of us guys, falling in love with Tanna Frederick’s character, Maggie The supporting actors all are incredible in this film, which helps to lift the great storyline that is not only for those of us in the industry, but anyone fascinated by what goes on behind-the-scenes of a great play. Henry Jaglom captures your attention because he gives so much detail to his stories that you can pick up what is going on whether you are an insider or not.
David Garver’s (Earl) has great chemistry with leading lady Tanna Frederick, and what a Hollywood Dream it was to see Diane Salinger return to a Jaglom film as Hildi. Salinger has an organic ability to grab your attention and never let it go. Her unique brand of acting really lifts the spirit of the moviegoer.
Tanna Frederick is so mesmerizing in each frame of the film, that one finds themselves believing everything that her character is going through. Her quick witted head-turning performance is so flawless that you find yourself falling under her trance, and the spellbinding beauty is only eclipsed by what can only be described as perfection on the big screen. Seeing her in a play is a life-changing event. But seeing her portray a woman who loves the theatre, but has to help save the show is what this gal is all about. Tanna spends so much time helping others, doing charitable work without asking for anything. Her heart is pure, which is probably why she’s able to convey in her performance in this film such a genuine grasp on humanity. But, just when you think her character is down and out, Jaglom’s writing does what Henry does best, throw you out of your chair with laughter. The writing is intelligent, it’s entertaining and strong. But it would be just great without Frederick, however, with her acting skills, it’s perfection.
From the moment you see her with David Garver, it’s setting you up for a smile. The characters are so spot on for theatre folk, as we call them, and in comes James Denton, a film and TV icon, who proves yet again, he is hardly a one-note leading man. The scene in which the two are seating and talking with Tanna’s lovely face covered in a skin mask is what makes her so authentic and superb in this role. With all of the green mud on her face, you still see those Bette Davis-like expressive eyes, peering through the camera with vulnerability, something only a strong actress is brave enough to portray.
The truth is, Tanna is really the thespian for all seasons, and she gives so much in each scene. Other standouts include Sabrina Jaglom, who has grown up to be such a gorgeous actress. Her scenes with the obsessed boyfriend is so timely. Today young girls oftentimes find themselves in early-abusive relationships, with nowhere to turn. Sabrina plays the ingénue with aplomb, but her inner strength, something she’s always had finds its way to the surface. I love the style in which Jaglom directed this young starlet, because she seems so genuinely in the scene. You can’t do a Jaglom film and call it in, you have to be in the scene, because the writing is just not going to allow you to cheat.
Also, Simon Jaglom, what a leading man he’s building up to become one day. I love that as Michael, he wanted to protect his sister, Zoe, (played by Sabrina Jaglom). The scenes really needed to have the two young actors trust each other. It couldn’t have worked without that. Simon’s Michael goes into a rage when he sees his sister being manhandled, but then Sabrina’s Zoe takes her power back, by not only standing up for herself, but also trying to tell her brother to do the right thing. The scene was chilling to watch, but its finale twist is a lovely surprise. One thing you can count on with Henry Jaglom’s work, is that you will never guess where this genius filmmaker is going, and his actors are able to fly by the seat of their pants, which is why his films become cult classics.
Michelle Danner as the gifted and yet haunted psychic really helped round out such a magnificent cast, including charismatic and gifted Cathy Arden. She and Danner are able to round out the cast with solid work, fascinating performances that capture just what real people in the theatre world are about. Arden’s tough as nails character is desperately seeking finances to keep the play going, to keep the theatre doors open, while Danner’s character has the innate insight that a lot is going on behind-the-scenes that no one else is noticing. I loved the expressions of the others, including Sabrina Jaglom’s, when the cast, crew/ensemble is literally wondering what the hell she’s talking about? And yet, Danner stays in character, never doubting what nuance to add at any moment that compliments others.
I have watched Frederick grow as an actress over the years, and this is really one of her best performances. Hoping to see her opposite James Denton again soon, because their chemistry is crackling with intensity, a growth for both thespians in their distinguished careers.
In addition to the brilliant acting and sensational directing, the script is rock solid. It really has everything to give. No matter who you may be, this film will capture your attention and it will make you laugh, and yes, there are moments when tears were necessary too. But Jaglom’s writing makes you hopeful, it’s what Henry Jaglom films do. I have so many favorite scenes, they include Frederick, Denton and both Sabrina and Simon Jaglom. Without giving away the plot, I expected a late-night stroll down the Santa Monica beach with Michael and plyers. Whew! I won’t say whether that scene comes or not, but by the ending, not only are all the strings tied nice and neatly into a wonderful bow, but with that bow is a box filled with glitter and gifts, all of which come pouring out of Tanna Frederick and her costars performances.
My late client Glenn Ford once told me, “I had some bad scripts in my day, but I never choked on them. When you have a hell of a great script and a beautiful leading lady and an ensemble cast filled with talent, then you have a classic.” That’s what Henry Jaglom’s “Ovation is, a classic. And thankfully, the classic beauty Tanna Frederick never lets you down in a role, and you never see her break a sweat.
In addition to the above great gifts, Jaglom peppers his film with such authentic and gratifying show tunes, you do believe you are living in the world of Broadway and theatre, even when there’s a body hidden away backstage. Come Oscar time, I truly believe this film should be nominated. Frederick and Denton make beautiful music together. Their timing is precise, their sharp performances cut deep into your soul.
Highlight Hollywood editors give this film Five out of a possible Five Stars.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Rainbow Film Company
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