Déjà Vu (1998)

             Henry Jaglom's films are admittedly an acquired taste; and even if you
     like and/or admire one of his works, there is no guarantee you will respond
     to another. His most recent,
Déjà Vu, co-written by and starring his off
     screen wife Victoria Foyt, sounds promising on paper. The film asks some
     very large philosophical questions about love, like how do we know when
     we've met the right person? And is it possible that we've shared something
     before with this person? Jaglom mentions in the press notes that this is
     a topic that has challenged him for a long time; he even wrote a short story
     on the subject. His inspiration was the Lorenz Hart lyric to "Where or When"
     ("It seems we've stood and talked like this before/but I can't remember
     where or when/the clothes you're wearing are the clothes you wore . . ." )
     and at one time the film even carried that title. While Jaglom and Foyt
     avoid a preachy New Age-y take on the material, they do raise the
     question of the role of Fate. I was looking forward to seeing the film as
     I was enchanted by their last collaboration,
Last Summer in the Hamptons.
     Unfortunately, I was not as overwhelmed by
Déjà Vu. That's not to say
     I didn't like it, I just felt that as screenwriters they stretched credulity
     too much by the constant use of the song "The White Cliffs of Dover"
     and its too coincidental use in the film.

             That said, there are several things about the film to consider. Foyt
     plays a businesswoman who is on a business trip in Israel. At a café,
     she meets an intriguing older woman who recounts a tale of lost love
     and leaves behind a ruby pin. Foyt, on her way to London to meet up with
     her fiance (Michael Brandon), takes a side trip to France in an effort
     to locate the owner of the pin. She finds the jeweler who originally made
     the piece and leaves it with him, along with her engagement ring (the
     jeweler offered to size it for her) when she spots a mysterious stranger
     staring and leaves the shop to chase him. Not locating the stranger, she
     proceeds on to London, but another passenger humming "The White Cliffs
     of Dover" gives her the idea to detrain in that town. There, she
     encounters the stranger, who it turns out is a painter. They share
     hot chocolate and a strangely erotic tie, but Foyt pulls away and heads
     to London.

             Meeting up with her fiance at the home of friends of her family
     (well-played by Noel Harrison and Anna Massey), Foyt is troubled by
     the encounter and begins to question her relationship. Complicating
     matters is the arrival of another couple, an architect — who just happens
     to be the mysterious stranger — and his wife (Stephen Dillane and Glynis
     Barber). Later, Harrison's sister (Vanessa Redgrave) arrives with her
     current lover in tow to discuss what to do about their mother. The players
     are in place and the tension between Foyt and Dillane grows. Will he
     leave his wife? Will she marry Brandon? The ending has a bit of a twist,
     but anyone who has read or seen Jane Austen can see it coming.

             What buoys
Déjà Vu, as with nearly any of Jaglom's films, is the
     acting. Foyt is lovely and handles her character and the emotional
     rollercoaster well. Harrison and Massey nearly steal the film as a
     long-married couple, whose interactions are quite funny (especially
     a bit about Mars bars). Redgrave is, as always, luminous. Her character
     is a bit sketchy, but the actress fill out the role and it's an added treat
     to see her act on screen opposite her mother (Rachel Kempson) for
     the first time. Brandon and Barber (who are married on screen) fill out
     their roles with dispatch. The weak link is Stephan Dillane, who proved
     his mettle in
Welcome to Sarajevo. Here, he lacks the charisma for
     which the role calls and the heat that should be generated between him
       and Foyt is more warm than blazing. What I also found a bit much was
     that every character in the film somehow had a story tied to "The White
     Cliffs of Dover"; it was a bit too much. Despite this, though, there is
     much to recommend
Déjà Vu. I just wish that this good film had been
     a better one.

                                             Rating:        B
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.