Eating: Jaglom about Women and Food

Henry Jaglom’s shallow, high-concept movie is subtitled “a very serious comedy about women and food.” The action takes place at an all-female birthday party, whose participants talk to each other about what eating means to and in their lives. But this is not a celebration of good food or sensual pleasures; rather, the women talk about their anxieties, their inadequate bodies, their feelings of emptiness only food can fill (men and food are often equated).

Jaglom’s blend of interviews and loose storytelling lets the women express feelings of dead and self-contempt–some comical, some moving–that seldom get into the movies. But as the birthday cake is being cut in the film’s funniest scene, it’s clear how thin and unchallenging this picture is.

Jaglom’s picture concerns an American, upper-middle-class, all-female triple birthday party, during which a French visitor (Nancy Alard), who is filming a documentary about eating disorders, causes group catharsis. Jaglom’s ability to maintain plot amid the resulting chaos results in a surprisingly entertaining movie, though it bogs down at the end in the tedium of superficial philosophy and social commentary.

The main characters are undeveloped types who keep repeating the same thing, instead of adding new historical, economic, cultural, spiritual or sexual angles on women’s tortuous relationship to food. Although Jaglom clearly wasn’t intending to insult women, his decision to focus on women and food has a terrible effect. His characters come off as body-driven creatures that spend entire parties talking only about their shapes, their eating disorders and their longing for men. Would anyone make a film called Jumping a serious comedy abut blacks and sports, which put African-Americans at a party and had them talking only about how they feel about baseball, football and hoops