‘The Seven Faces of Jane’ Review: One Movie, Eight Directors

Gillian Jacobs’s blank slate protagonist floats through a series of encounters in this feature-length movie made up of short films.

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By Teo Bugbee

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A director’s career is often measured by the quality and quantity of their feature films. But short films can offer a chance to experiment with styles and subjects that might not be suited for a wider commercial release. “The Seven Faces of Jane” combines these two modes of production to create an omnibus film; it’s a feature-length movie comprising short films made by emerging directors.

At the center of each short story is Jane (played by Gillian Jacobs, who also directs the first of the movie’s shorts), a single mother who opens the movie by dropping off her daughter at summer camp in Malibu. The film’s episodic story follows Jane as she floats through a series of encounters during her week of solitude in Southern California. She begins with a surreal trip to a roadside diner, but her journeys take her to the desert, the beach and the mountains. She connects with strangers, as well as lovers, including a former flame played by Joel McHale, who starred on the TV series “Community” with Jacobs.

Jane is a bit of a blank slate as a protagonist, and her flatness feels jarring when she encounters other characters with more depth. One episode introduces Tayo (Chido Nwokocha), an ex of Jane’s who describes feeling alienated from his Blackness and sense of self during their relationship. Another sequence finds Jane teaching the steps of a waltz to a teenager dreading the dances at her quinceañera. Jane acts as a sounding board when these characters describe their feelings about their specific cultures. Yet in her responses, she remains as two-dimensional as a sketch on white paper.

The directors — Jacobs, Gia Coppola, Boma Iluma, Ryan Heffington, Xan Cassavetes, Julian J. Acosta, Ken Jeong (another of Jacobs’s “Community” castmates) and Alex Takacs — come from a wide range of creative and personal backgrounds. But the shorts blend together without significant variation. The transitions eschew title cards, subtly eliding shifts by returning to images of Jane in her car.

There is continuity in this makeshift road picture‌ — Jane’s costumes and makeup remain cohesive across the shorts, and the film’s segments keep the same cool color palette. But the consistency limits the ability of the directors to lean into their own style, leading to a movie that feels narratively scattered and stylistically inhibited.

The Seven Faces of Jane
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Amazon, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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