The Seven Faces of Jane begins and ends with segments directed by Jacobs herself. These are also, unfortunately, the shortest segments of the film, as the opening, “Goodbye,” shows Jane dropping her child off at camp, with the final segment, “Hello,” has Jane picking her kid up from camp. There isn’t much more to Jacobs’ segments, and it’s a shame, considering Jacobs has an impressive lineup of directorial work so far as a documentarian, directing an episode of Marvel’s 616 and last year’s More Than Robots. It would’ve been fascinating to see where Jacobs thinks this character should go, before she’s put in the hands of all these other filmmakers with their own interpretations.
Instead, The Seven Faces of Jane goes down a path of absurdity almost immediately, with Gia Coppola (Palo Alto, Mainstream) kicking things off with a strange doppelgänger short that thankfully gets in and gets out rather quickly. But the best segments here allow for a little more time with the character of Jane. Boma Iluma’s “Tayo” has Jane reconnecting with a former romantic lover (Chido Nwokocha), with gorgeous beachside cinematography; while similarly, Ken Jeong‘s “The One Who Got Away” also focuses on the idea of a love lost with Michael (Joel McHale). It’s also notable that Gillian working once more with her Community co-stars is likely while this segment feels like the most natural.
Yet the structure of this film makes moments of emotional resonance few and far between, as each segment attempts to hit the audience’s heart immediately given the time restrictions. But considering how little time each director has to work with, this ends up being a futile effort. For example, in “Guardian” by Ryan Heffington, Jane receives tragic news almost immediately, and we’re asked to feel the pain of this emotion through an interpretive dance. It’s a scene that could’ve certainly worked if there was more buildup to the moment, but instead, the sequence asks you to feel something right away, without any context or time to consider who this person Jane is dancing with could be.
But even if The Seven Faces of Jane didn’t confront the odd process of making this film right up front, the drastic shifts in tone, style, and quality would immediately make this feel like it was from eight different filmmakers. In fact, there’s no real reason why this couldn’t have just been a series of different short films starring Gillian Jacobs, instead of attempting to make some sort of single narrative that doesn’t make any sense. While this concept presents itself as being about the character of Jane, by not having any consistency between these segments, most of the filmmakers decide to draw attention to other characters instead.
In addition to Nwokocha and McHale, “The Lonesome Road” by Xan Cassavetes, focuses more on a hitchhiker that Jane picks up, while “Rose” by Julian J. Acosta also follows on a random encounter with a girl preparing for her quinceañera. If we are to take this as one narrative, we don’t really learn much about Jane herself, other than that she changes herself depending on what person she’s talking to at any given time. In a story that is supposed to structurally focus on Jane, it’s a shame Jane often gets lost in her own story.
If anything, The Seven Faces of Jane shows the versatility of Jacobs, and how she should absolutely be in more projects. Jacobs is able to be playful, romantic, heartbroken, twisted, unnerving, and more through these pieces, and even when a segment isn’t as strong as it should be, Jacobs’ performance is the one piece of consistency that makes these all worthwhile. Some of the other performers here can often feel stiff and uncomfortable in their stories, but Jacobs always manages to be the saving grace, no matter what the story.
While this idea from Roman Coppola (whose last writing/directing effort, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is also quite a questionable project) is a curious idea, it almost immediately shows the flaws and issues with this type of storytelling. There’s simply no reason why this couldn’t be a series of short films instead, except that this is a more interesting concept to sell a movie around. But especially when segments like Alex Takaács’ “The Audition” feel like their own individual piece without any connection to anything else in this film, it makes no sense why this is even attempting some sort of narrative through line. The Seven Faces of Jane is a curious experiment, but ultimately, a failed one.
The Seven Faces of Jane is now available in select theaters and on VOD.