Rating: 4 out of 5.

Russell Brown’s Loren & Rose is a film that shocked and surprised me in terms of its authentic feel and effectiveness bred from such a simple concept. A director and a legendary actress have a full meal together over the course of six years—an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. As they say, big things have small beginnings, and the fact that Loren & Rose works so well is a testament to everyone involved behind and in front of the camera. Welcome to the estate sale of famous actress Rose Martins—after a messy tabloid divorce, losing custody of her daughter, and a self-published manifesto about the way older women were treated in Hollywood, her public image is pretty much kaput. Rose has mysteriously vanished into thin air, leaving behind a legacy, but only one man knows her true whereabouts…

Kelly Blatz plays ambitious gay director Loren, and opposite him is film bombshell Jacqueline Bisset (who I knew as villainous James in season 4 of FX’s Nip/Tuck), Rose, a reclusive and “notoriously difficult” actress who speaks fondly of her storied career. They first meet at the same restaurant Rose has been frequenting for fifteen years now to discuss a comeback role on the wings of Loren’s various short-film accolades. An instant connection is formed, a bond that bleeds through every second the duo share onscreen together. There is almost a mother/son vibe, only far more crude.

Who would have thought two people conversing around a restaurant table together for each course would feel so satisfying? Loren & Rose eventually gets into deeply sad and moving territory in a way that makes this feel like a full meal, rather than staying in the territory of a subpar appetizer. When it accomplishes this, the film becomes a sublime masterpiece of precision and intent. Every word uttered between Loren and Rose feels organic and necessary, down to the talk about preserving one’s ass and face in equal measure, vagina-phobia, and cinema being a window into the world.

Providing a fantastic late-career vehicle for Jacqueline Bisset and a showcase for Kelly Blatz’s subtlety of performance, Loren & Rose was far better than I had expected. By the end, I was driven to tears—holding up a mirror to one’s own purpose or existence is no easy task. Losing one’s way is also an inevitability for most people at least once or twice in their lives. As we follow Loren and Rose across the years, we witness their highs and lows in equal measure. I felt a pang of sorrow deep in my soul as I finished this movie. One thing I can say for certain is that Loren & Rose will stay in my heart long after those credits flashed onscreen.

Loren & Rose screened at the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

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