In a world where there are literally countless hours of product out there, having something with power behind and in front of the camera that breaks the mold so drastically is always something that catches the eyes of a viewer. If you’ve attended film school, you most likely have been subjected to a lot of different genres of films and a lot of experimental films, and it allows you to almost, in a sense, sample what someone is trying to do or say, including giving an actor the ability to break out (or in this case break the mold of her abilities) and truly create something unique and interesting. The Seven Faces of Jane is an experimental anthology that doesn’t quite fit the ideology of anthologies but also creates its own interpretation of what can be done. Like all anthologies, not every segment lands the impact it intends to or tries to carve out for itself, but as a singular feature with a singular character’s journey it certainly breaks through and delivers on most fronts.
Seven directors and writers were given a general guideline about a character, in this case Jane (Gillian Jacobs), and the general premise of the story, but everything else was entirely and creatively up to them and what they wanted to do. The story essentially is that Jane drops her daughter off at a summer camp. Her daughter is generally reluctant to go to, however, after a pep talk about having to do things that potentially scare you and worry you but you must venture out into the world is laid out, her daughter leaves and Jane finds herself having to take her own advice. The experiences she goes through have a drastic range of meaning and sentiment behind them, ranging across all emotions, but they all seem to tie into one another in some way. It certainly begs the question of whether the initial scripts were slightly modified to make the final pieced-together feature feel more coherent than initially planned, but there is no doubt that all seven voices are present and clear throughout the feature.
The directors of the segments include Julian Acosta (What Bitch?), Xan Cassavetes (Kiss of the Damned), Gia Coppola (Mainstream), Ryan Heffington (Cost of the Summer), Boma Iluma (The Chi), Gillian Jacobs (More Than Robots), Ken Jeong (30 For 30 Shorts), and Alex Takacs (Under the God part 2). The segments are not titled traditionally, as in the audience is not told where the segment ends and the next one begins, but the shift in stylistic choices make it clear (some more than others) a different segment with a different director helming has taken over. The segments are in order of “Goodbye/Hello,” directed by Gillian Jacobs; “Jane2 (squared),” directed by Gia Coppola; “Tayo,” directed by Boma Illuma; “Guardian,” directed and choreographed by Ryan Heffington; “The Lonesome Road,” directed by Xan Cassavetes; “Rose,” directed by Julian J Acosta; “The One that Got Away,” directed by Ken Jeong; and “The Audition,” directed by Alex Takacs. Each of these segments deals with a different time period in life and almost a different emotion, as well, focusing on childhood fears, loss, love, identity crisis, acceptance, and where we see ourselves fitting in this world. As each segment almost plays itself as a separate short film with the overarching presence of Jane, everything comes together to create a beautifully crafted final film that, while fractured, continues to touch on every aspect of the human soul and evoke emotions from within its audience. It is daunting and certainly not going to play for everyone, but the fact that this experiment worked and created something cohesive is something truly exceptional.
Considering The Seven Faces of Jane focuses primarily on Gillian Jacobs as the titular Jane, it is important to discuss her performance. While most people likely know her from her role as Britta on Community, or Mickey from Love, she certainly is no stranger to any form of artistic medium. She has reinforced her presence with her performance in The Seven Faces of Jane, giving a 90-minute reel essentially showing she can do it all, and do it all incredibly well. The sheer ranges of emotion that is begged of her in this experiment are daunting and her execution to create this world is nothing short of sublime. Most people have a 90-minute time frame with their co-stars to create the magic that unfolds on screen, but the ability to create this nearly seven times over or playing opposite of herself is nothing short of brilliant. However, it is also worth noting that some of her co-stars share the experience with Gillian and can match the unparalleled talent that she is bringing. Joel McHale, who plays Michael, clearly has the chemistry with Jacobs from their Community days, but it breaks down to a new level of deeper connection and the resulting chemistry is so powerful and tangible it will simply put the audience in a trance that entraps us from looking away from what is unfolding on screen. As well, Daniela Hernandez, who plays Rose in the “Rose” segment, is also incredible as an immigrant who is trying to escape family pressure of her quinceañera, and amplifies the pressure that family can have on children and teenagers and how it can be disruptive to their ability to grow into their own person. Lastly, Chido Nwokocha as Tayo creates a deeply personal connection with Jacobs/Jane resulting in a beautiful performance in their segment that is astonishing to look at and causes the audience to get lost in the beauty of what is unsaid versus said.
While The Seven Faces of Jane certainly takes a swing for the fences in creating this world and experimenting, it manages to come together to create something that, while certainly fractured, is whole and beautiful. It could almost play off as a metaphor for humanity itself, as we are fractured but still whole and beautiful, and maybe that was the overarching message the film wanted to get out there. Just being able to create something in this way and get seven different artistic visions and ideas to come together and flow to create this final entity is something special. For that in of itself, The Seven Faces of Jane deserves your undivided attention and to be examined as a piece of film that breaks the mold of what films have to be and what we have classified films as.
In select theaters and on VOD January 13th, 2023.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.