The Seven Faces of Jane

The Seven Faces of Jane is more of an experiment than an actual movie. As an experiment, it's pretty interesting; as a movie, not so much. Produced by Roman Coppola, the film is an example of “exquisite corpse” - an artistic exercise in which a story is created by multiple people who are independently responsible for only one section. In this case, seven directors made seven short films revolving around the same character, completely unaware of what the others were doing. The only connective is Jane, played by Gillian Jacobs.

The opening scene finds Jane dropping her nervous young daughter off at camp. She encourages the girl to be brave and try to enjoy new experiences. That's the framing device. Once it's established, Jane drives off and has her own series of adventures, some of which are very realistic, others fantasy-like. She stops at a seemingly abandoned diner, where she meets another version of herself. She is reunited with two different old boyfriends, one of whom is played by Jacobs' Community co-star Joel McHale. She picks up a hitchhiker. She envisions dancing with a friend who is seriously ill. The best section finds Jane helping a teen girl who has fled her quinceañera because of a controlling grandmother. (This could be fleshed out into a feature.) The least successful has her going into an underground facility where she's interviewed by an ominous woman. I'm still not entirely sure what that was about.

The sections were directed by Julian Acosta, Xan Cassavetes, Gia Coppola, Ryan Heffington, Boma Iluma, Ken Jeong, and Alex Takacs. (Jacobs handled the opening and closing sequences.) They utilize different tones, different aspect ratios, and different styles of storytelling. Obviously, that approach makes The Seven Faces of Jane very disjointed. Nothing has anything to do with anything else, so it comes down to how much you enjoy each individual segment. But like an anthology film, some segments are better than others. The way around this would have been to have the directors at least agree on a ground rule related to tone. When one story is otherworldly and the next is aiming for emotional depth, the clash between them is too jarring to be satisfying.

To the extent that this unusual premise holds together, it's entirely due to Gillian Jacobs. She's excellent in all of the segments, regardless of what they ask her to do. The actress is funny at times, breaks your heart in others, and helps create an air of mystery in still others. Hopefully, The Seven Faces of Jane will, if nothing else, continue to raise her profile. Jacobs has been doing good work for years, without ever being ostentatious about it. She's vastly underrated. Without her, this film would feel even more cobbled together than it (intentionally) already is.

I respect The Seven Faces of Jane for trying something radically different. Coppola and crew admirably attempt to deliver a film that takes a massive risk. At the same time, I wish the quality level was more consistent across the stories. If you just want to see a cinematic experiment, or appreciate Gillian Jacobs, you may find it worth a look. If, on the other hand, you want something that will hold your attention from start to finish, check out the star's 2020 indie I Used to Go Here instead.

out of four

The Seven Faces of Jane is unrated, but contains adult language and some mature content. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.