‘Loren & Rose’ Review: Jacqueline Bisset Stuns As An Actress Confronting Her Past

It's the undervalued Bisset's greatest and most colorful role since Francois Truffaut's 'Day for Night,' and she doesn't waste a single frame.

Jacqueline Bisset in ‘Loren & Rose.’ Courtesy of Falco Ink.

Beautifully acted, intelligently scripted and sensitively directed, Loren & Rose showcases the undervalued, not always properly showcased talents of Jacqueline Bisset. This is a wonderful film, memorable and carefully made, that succeeds on many levels, but most of all as a welcome vehicle for a splendid,  gorgeous star. One of the consistent joys of the movie business, she is still, at 79, nothing less than splendiferous.

LOREN & ROSE ★★★★ (4/4 stars)
Directed by: Russell Brown
Written by: Russell Brown
Starring: Jacqueline Bisset, Kelly Blatz, Gia Carides, Paul Sand, Erin Cahill, Rebecca Noble
Running time: 81 mins.

She plays Rose Martin, a fading film star who hasn’t worked in years but is still revered for a shocking breakthrough role in a 1972 drama called Lisa Overnight. Critics and audiences alike hailed her performance, but she never duplicated the success. In the intervening years, she authored a cutting book—about the difficulties faced by mature Hollywood women finding work in an indifferent industry with no memory—that angered the people who remembered her from the past. Now only a few of her old fans remember her at all, mostly from a handful of embarrassing horror films.

But out of the blue comes a young director named Loren Bressher (Kelly Blatz), fresh from some success on the film-festival circuit, who is anxious to stage her comeback in an art film he has written. His reputation is based on a short 12-minute film about the death of his mother, and now for his first feature-length effort, he wants Rose for his star. They meet in a little cafe in Topanga Canyon. Sipping her favorite drink—gin, maraschino liqueur, and violets steeped in brandy—she is wary but curious, talking cautiously but candidly about her life, her career, and her trip down “a rabbit hole of self-loathing.” It’s Bisset’s greatest and most colorful role since Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night, and she doesn’t waste a single frame.

Over a period of six years, this unlikely pair are shown meeting for three different meals at the same country inn—enjoying an exotic appetizer, a filling entree, and the kind of dessert best eaten with eyes closed. During the course of these three meals, we see them grow from casual and guarded to deeply revealing. Whether she’s describing her search for spiritual escape in a monastery in Bhutan, exploring the parameters of her imagination, or selectively sorting out her thoughts and pouncing on words for emphasis, she is endlessly fascinating. His emotional vulnerability and her pithy candor and jaded sophistication make them a perfect match in a platonic relationship that grows with decency and compassion. Sensitively wounded and reluctantly unsure, the boy learns to open up enough to talk about being betrayed by his first boyfriend, a wound the older woman understands all too well from her own life. As the friendship grows, so do the phases of their moods, like courses on a menu.

Imploding with inner passion for rich and esoteric foods, bathing in the atmosphere of natural light with a dazzling smile, seeing with perception into the souls of other people, Bisset  burns a hole through the screen in scene after astounding scene.Discussing their sources of inspiration in the artists they admire from Cezanne to Harper Lee, they find mutual bonds they never imagined possible.She expounds on the art of Nazimova, the pitfalls of suicide, the disintegration of her troubled relationship with the daughter she lost in a custody battle.He warmly counters with confessions about his toxic relationships with older men.

Jacqueline Bisset in ‘Loren & Rose.’ Courtesy of Falco Ink.

She’s funny, honest, direct and mesmerizing. She also has cancer. The most heart-rending aspect of Loren & Rose is the way two people of different ages learn to trust, love, and contribute to each other’s lives in an intense, mutually beneficial friendship, and then how they learn to adjust to encroaching tragedy and ultimate change. The woman helps him evolve as a creative artist and face the future with pride, and the boy helps her face the end with strength and courage. All accomplished, I must add, with total naturalism and not a pinch of sentimentality or forced emotion.

Loren & Rose is the kind of exemplary film that depends on the value of feelings expressed through words.  Fortunately the economical direction and illuminating dialogue, triumphs of nuance and revelation, are both by Russell Brown, a pliant and meticulous filmmaker worth keeping an eye on. What a joy to hear a score by Chopin, Debussy and Mozart. Kelly Blatz, an agreeable young actor with an impressive emotional range, holds his own in every scene with Jacqueline Bisset. Given a good role and the time and space to develop it in her own way, it’s a thrill and a dream to see the depth and scope of her craft and intuitive vision in a film that deserves her at last. She brings such an extra dimension to every scene, including the ones without dialogue, that you have no problem knowing exactly what she thinks and feels. There’s a moment when she tastes creme brulee on a spoon, closes her eyes, and whispers, “Bliss.” Unforgettable.

Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

‘Loren & Rose’ Review: Jacqueline Bisset Stuns As An Actress Confronting Her Past