1997, PG-13, 116 min. Directed by Henry Jaglom. Starring Victoria Foyt, Stephen Dillane, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Brandon, Glynis Barber, Noel Harrison, Anna Massey, Vernon Dobtcheff, Graydon Gould, Aviva Marks, Rachel Kempson.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 19, 1998
At first glance, Henry Jaglom's 12th film, Déjà Vu, seems to have traded in the narcissistic introspections that have governed most of his films to date (Babyfever, Someone to Love, Always) for more conventionally fictional narrative progressions. But though Jaglom co-scripted Déjà Vu with Victoria Foyt, the film's star and Jaglom's wife in real life, this movie has merely swapped the director's resolutely improvisational style for a more structured, predetermined outlook and approach. It's wholly appropriate for this story about destiny and fate, a story about lovers who must decide whether or not to accept the fated-ness of their pairing or continue to operate as though they had free will and control over their own happiness. As far as things like this go, Déjà Vu is going to hold much greater charms for those who also find themselves swept up by the romantically mystical predeterminism of such films as City of Angels and Michael. Yet more of a problem is the illusion that Jaglom has advanced his highly personal soul-searching for broader and less idiosyncratically obsessive storylines. Though the director has absented himself as a character in Déjà Vu, he has populated the film with fictional characters who share his same narcissistic concerns. They never tire of hearing themselves fret aloud over the same questions and emotional dilemmas: to go or stay, to marry or not marry, to do what's expected or to jump into the unknown. I know we should be grateful to find such intelligent, articulate, mature characters in a movie, but so much of the time we find ourselves wishing that they would just shut up, jump into the unknown, and go away. Dana (Foyt) and Sean (Dillane) meet and feel instantly that they share a mysterious connection and sense of belonging. She's engaged and he's married, but forces keep bringing them together. In the movie's coda, these forces even go so far as to adopt the paranormal qualities of a good, old-fashioned spook story. Still, Déjà Vu is not without its charms. The performances are all good and the film's travelogue aspects (Jerusalem, the white cliffs of Dover, and the British country home where so much of the story takes place) are pleasantly engaging. Narratively, the characters are set up in contrasting fashions: the contented older couple (Harrison and Massey) who enjoy such small delights as sharing Mars bars in bed together and the peripatetic woman (Redgrave) who refuses to settle down for love or familial responsibilities (the scene Redgrave plays with her mother in real life, Rachel Kempson, is just the kind of unexpected pleasure that Déjà Vu on occasion bestows). But no matter how much of a narrative breakthrough Déjà Vu represents for its director, Jaglom's film still exudes an annoying “been there, done that” feel.