Review: Seven Filmmakers Create One Whole, Multi-Dimensional Character in The Seven Faces of Jane

From the opening titles of The Seven Faces of Jane: “In the summer of 2021, eight filmmakers were invited to create a section of a feature film without any knowledge of what came before or after it. They were encouraged to stay true to their own unique life experience, vision, and style.”

And then separately: “A blind collaboration; an exquisite corpse.”

What that description doesn’t make clear is that each of the seven segments is about a woman named Jane, played by Gillian Jacobs. Jacobs also directs the opening segment, setting the tone for how she’ll play the character in subsequent segments, regardless of the filmmaker at the helm.

In the Jacobs-directed portion, “Goodbye/Hello,” we simply see Jane drop off her daughter Molly (Joni Reiss) at summer camp, promising to come back for her if she hates the experience. It’s a wonderful example of what a people-pleaser Jane is and how she’s willing to negotiate with someone to make them happy or more comfortable—a theme that is illustrated again and again as the film continues. It’s never 100 percent clear if these segments we’re seeing are meant to be in chronological order or if they’re simply moments in Jane’s life that, when considered as a unit, give us a clear sense of her personality, strengths and flaws. Whatever the case, the thing the movie gets right when all is said and done is that we are handed a fully formed character by the end, almost more so than if we’d watched her travel through a more traditionally told story.

Other directors featured in the work are Gia Coppola, Boma Iluma, Xan Cassavetes, Julian Acosta, Alex Takacs, and Jacob’s “Community” co-star Ken Jeong, who helms a piece called “The One Who Got Away.” It features Jane running into Michael, an old crush played by yet another “Community” cast mate, Joel McHale, pulling off both smarmy comedy and heightened romantic drama in a short span.

Some of the segments are meant to be taken at face value. In Cassavetes “The Lonesome Road,” Jane picks up a pretty hitchhiker named Valentina (Emanuela Postacchini), whose outlook on the world is to avoid attachments and pick up cute men whenever possible, basically the polar opposite of Jane, who reveals her desperate need to have another person share her life. In Iluma’s section “Tayo,” Jane meets an old boyfriend (Chido Nwokocha) for what she thinks is a romantic reunion but it turns out to be a concert in which he’s playing along with his new significant other; Jane’s disappointment is palpable. One of my favorites of the realism-based chapters is Acosta’s “Rose,” in which Jane spends the afternoon with a Mexican-American teen (Daniela Hernandez) who has run away from her quinceanera in full puffy dress attire. The girl has no attachment to her heritage and wants no part in the celebration, but Jane helps her make the day the girl’s own, with a more fitting look and attitude.

The other segments are more based in surrealism, open to interpretation, such as Coppola’s “Jane2,” in which Jane is in a coffee shop and is approached by criminals in a clear case of mistaken identity. Then another woman named Jane, who looks exactly like our Jane (still played by Jacobs), approaches and the two begin to fight for their identity. I’m not sure what it means, but I like a good Jacobs v Jacobs battle. In Heffington’s “Guardian,” Jane sinks into a lyrical, melancholy dance routine with her presumably dead love Sybil (Sybil Azur); it’s only meant to be beautiful and evoke a raw emotional response, and it fully succeeds. The film’s final section is Takacs’ “The Audition,” an eerie sequence in which Jane goes to an audition in offices located deep in a strange mausoleum. Perhaps more than any other segment, this one (featuring a director played by Caroline Ducrocq) gives us the full range of what Jacobs is capable of as an actor, as you might imagine from a routine meant to be an audition for some unknown project.

As much as I adored “Community,” I don’t think I got a full appreciation for Jacobs as a performer until after the show was done. In works such as Don’t Think Twice, I Used to Go Here, Come Play, and Netflix’s “Love,” Jacobs really stretches beyond her comedy roots and gives us something consistently unexpected and easy to care about. And The Seven Faces of Jane is up there with the best of her work.

The film is in select theaters and on VOD.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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