LOREN & ROSE – Review by April Neale

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The film Loren & Rose is an adult film in the sense that it is for thinkers and those who love the sounds of the words, well placed and delivered by actors who understand and convey their character’s mission. And sometimes, a film comes along that provides a stark reminder of how fleeting life is, how transient we mortals are, and the only thing that lasts until we stop breathing are our memories if we are lucky to have our minds still working.

Auteur-director Russell Brown has created a quiet, contemplative film that explores many human feelings. Especially for actors, who put themselves creatively out there for a lifetime of critique and gossip, their work exalted or picked apart, and for actresses, their looks, mental health, and viability once past a certain age.

Jaqueline Bisset is Rose Martin, a unicorn of an actor who made a big impression on Loren (Kelly Blatz), a young filmmaker just out of school obsessed with one role she knocked out of the park in the 1970s. This film is a love letter to unlikely friendships and proper mentorship that knows when to exit the stage gracefully, as Rose does at the end of their series of meals over time.

The beauty of Brown’s film exists in the chemistry and pull of Loren, a talented young filmmaker, and his muse Rose, an elusive ‘once was’ who still carries the aura of stardom around her beautiful face. Time has been good to Bisset, whose character is looking for a proper comeback.

Loren meets her at her favorite Topanga Canyon restaurant, a safe place for Rose where the waiter Phil knows her better than anyone. Collaboration between Loren and Rose grows, and over a few years and several meals there, their friendship solidifies in shared passion for cinema, art, loss and love, food, and taking chances.

Rose bucks up Loren when he is down on himself, and vice versa. There are scenes and moments you can imagine knowing Bisset’s backstory in her real life that she is likely drawing upon memories of her deepest, most notable loves and her personal and creative hardships. Blatz and Bisset are electric in the frame together. Though steeped in the exotic, their conversation sometimes feels familiar and natural. Rose’s memories and imagination fill Loren with ideas and resolve. They give each other so much over meals that it reveals how Loren’s palate dwells in blandness, yet he begins to break free through her encouragement.

The foods and the meals are all metaphors for the gauntlet of life and making a career as a creative in Hollywood’s mercenary business: art and commerce, age and beauty, experience, regrets, and creative trepidations. The film is luminous in its simple conceit that two remarkably different people, a young man and an older woman, in different parts of the same business, can find such comfort and enjoyment in each other’s company and that it is not at all sexual.

The muse and the mentor roles also are fluid in this very focused piece. You may have had an unlikely friendship with a contemporary much older or younger than yourself, and the conversations from that divide are usually never dull. So it is for Loren, who struggles with climbing a ladder for work, and Rose, who wants to be remembered in a way that erases the tabloid nonsense and ‘gotcha’ paparazzi videos of her being dramatic in public spaces.

There is also a mother-child relationship that emerges, and the daughter of Rose is revealed to have received the short end of the maternal stick from her artiste mother, whose mortifying dramatic antics continue to cause her embarrassment, and Rose, who cannot undo the past.

The screenplay took around three years to shape, and you can see the honing Brown does in the careful pas de deux between his two leads, a conversation that takes us to a deeper understanding of their needs, wants, and ultimately a sobering end game. A special note is for faithful waiter Phil, played with subtle humor and perfection by actor Paul Sand. Bravo to all.

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April Neale

April Neale is an entertainment writer and television critic. Neale has read her work both on NPR and 'Spoken Interludes', and has previously written for various industry trades and entertainment websites. Neale has written for Monsters and Critics since 2003, and is an editor and main contributor to the TV, Film and Culture (formerly Lifestyle) sections.