Jake Squared: A Film Director Is Upstaged by His Younger Selves

Pirandello meets midlife crisis, this vanity project by Howard Goldberg posits that filmmaker/ realtor Jake Klein (Elias Koteas) is making a movie about his fucked-up life and all the unhappy women he’s left in his wake. The tone is comic, rueful, and absurd as Jake casts a young hunk (Mike Vogel) as his youthful avatar. Then while filming, director Jake and the rest of the crew are visited by his five iterations (played by Koteas, Koteas, Koteas, Koteas, and Kevin Railsback). Needless, to say, this creates much confusion for us, director Jake, his two kids, his ex, his current g.f. (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and his BFF (Virginia Madsen). And to complicate things further, hovering in this Felliniesque film-set realm is Jake’s first great love (and second cousin), played by Jane Seymour in the present context and Liana Liberato in nostalgic recollection.

The juggling would be a lot for Woody Allen—name-checked here—or Charlie Kaufman to manage. With barely a few film credits to his name, Goldberg isn’t nearly so sophisticated or funny, but he’s gentle with the material. The women are mostly wise and forbearing, while Jake generally reveals himself to be an idiotic horndog at every turn (particularly when trying to lure women into his hot tub time machine). The balding Koteas, usually cast as cop or criminal, from Shutter Island to The Adjuster, is actually such a warm, engaging presence that you could see him in a Woody Allen movie. But the writing isn’t there to support him; and the radiant auras of Seymour and Madsen are likewise wasted.

When Jake finally loses control of his project, he indignantly shouts, “This is my movie! I say what happens!” You wish that Goldberg was in firmer command of this one. Opens Fri., Aug. 15 at Sundance Cinemas. Rated R. 100 minutes.


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