JANE FONDA IN FIVE ACTS – Review by Cate Marquis

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Jane Fonda in Five Acts is a biography of actress Jane, a woman who has led a varied life that has been charmed in some ways and tragic in others. The documentary is a sort of autobiography on film, Jane Fonda’s version of her long and varied life.

Curiously, although it shows Fonda transforming herself throughout her life, the documentary is organized in five chapters, mostly built around the men in her life, although the men were mostly an accompaniment to her transformations. The chapters begin with her father, Henry Fonda, and her emotionally difficult childhood as the daughter of the famous Hollywood stat. It continues on to follow her career, personal life and shifting political activities, through her marriages to French director Roger Vadim, liberal activist Tom Hayden and media mogul Ted Turner, to finally end with Fonda as a single woman and describing herself as a feminist.

Fonda does discuss controversial moments and mistakes, personal and otherwise, particularly famous ones like the trip to North Vietnam which for a time made her a hated figure for some but also more personal ones regarding her children. While it feels like she is being honest, everything is framed from her point-of-view, as if it is her turn to answer her critics or explain herself for posterity. For Jane Fonda fans, this documentary is an in-depth look inside her life, although like any autobiography, it lacks outside perspective. It is the life of Jane Fonda as Jane Fonda would tell it.

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Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.