James Denton and Tanna Frederick make the most of “Ovation.” (Courtesy photo)

James Denton and Tanna Frederick make the most of “Ovation.” (Courtesy photo)

‘Ovation’ a slight dramedy about showbiz life

“Ovation” is writer-director Henry Jaglom’s latest film about showbiz life, in which the characters demonstrate dramatic tendencies backstage as well as thespian prowess under the spotlight. It’s an agreeable but unremarkable mix of art-versus-commerce and romantic comedy, buoyed by a stellar lead performance but marred by an uneven story.

Jaglom makes personal movies containing hints of Chekhov, Robert Altman and Woody Allen. They tend to be loosely flowing family affairs ranging in quality from the winning “Last Summer in the Hamptons” to the misfiring “Just 45 Minutes From Broadway.”

Cowritten with Ron Vignone, “Ovation” falls somewhere in between, as, in a slightly screwbally and semi-farcical tone, it presents a tense week in the life of an artistically vital but economically ailing Southern California theater.

A production of N. Richard Nash’s “The Rainmaker” has been drawing sizable crowds and earning rave reviews. The attention has largely focused on Maggie Chase (Tanna Frederick), the play’s talented star.

If the show’s producer (Cathy Arden) can’t find a financial savior by the end of the week, the show, and the theater itself, will close.
Filled with anxiety, cast and crew handle professional and personal dilemmas disastrously.

Most pivotally, Maggie receives a dressing-room visit from Stewart Henry (James Denton), a charismatic TV actor who has a fiancée but clicks romantically with Maggie. He tries to lure her away from “The Rainmaker” with a lucrative offer to star with him in a new TV series.

Maggie gets flirty, and then recedes, and drives Stewart to places that first irk and eventually surprise him. His bosses are not amused.

Subplots include a love triangle, a fortune teller, and a possible corpse in the closet.

Jaglom fans and avid theatergoers will likely enjoy this movie, which, while no “Birdman,” vividly embraces the invigorating world of live theater. Like many Jaglom films, it puts some true emotion on the screen.

Much of that is due to Frederick, who, in real life, is married to Jaglom and is his frequent artistic collaborator. Stellar as a smart, talented artist who enjoys being pursued, she and the charm-oozing Denton, for a spell at least, generate chemistry that enables the ludicrously improbable rom-com formula to unfold almost believably.

Unfortunately, the story hits far too many flat points. Some plot threads — boyfriend problems of actress Zoe (Sabrina Jaglom), for example — are simply tedious.

“Ovation,” which is screening at the Opera Plaza, is passable fare that might suffice for a rainy-day matinee. But it can’t complete with superior films playing around town now, when the year’s top movies at last are in theaters.

REVIEW
Ovation
two and a half stars
Starring Tanna Frederick, James Denton, Sabrina Jaglom, Cathy Arden
Written by Henry Jaglom, Ron Vignone
Directed by Henry Jaglom
Rated R
Running time 1 hour, 42 minutes
Cathy ArdenHenry JaglomJames DentonMovies and TVOvationRon VignoneSabrina JaglomTanna Frederick

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

(Robert Greene/Tribune News Service)
As tensions grow over vaccinations and politics, California lawmakers face threats from public

Anti-vaccine speakers hint at gun violence during routine budget hearing at state Capitol

Toni Isabella, a counselor at Ohlhoff Recovery Programs, finds helpful assistance from service dog Barker Posey.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Toni Isabella: Helping people indoors and out recover from addiction’s dark side

Counselor supports holistic, progressive approach to healing

Music producer Phil Spector looks up during his murder trial in Superior Court July 10, 2007 in Los Angeles. (Gabriel Bouys-Pool/Getty Images/TNS)
Phil Spector, visionary music producer convicted in notorious murder, dies at 81

Phil Spector, the visionary record producer who revolutionized pop music in the… Continue reading

Most Read