We rarely feature pieces that star the same talent, and if we do, we try to separate them by more than a couple of weeks, but Jenny Donheiser’s performance in it is so diametrically opposed to her flatulent turn in Pumbucha that we thought we’d give ourselves a pass. Besides, Donheiser is only one half of the story this week, as she plays opposite Orange Is the New Black’s Constance Shulman on the eve of her mother’s funeral. It’s a raw pairing that’s as funny as it is heartbreaking.
Directed by Lisa Maria Hall, Mama Jane sees a bohemian mother visiting her 20-something daughter’s New York hovel as the two prepare for the next day’s funeral of one generation’s mother and the other’s grandma. For almost the entire film, we’re confined to the tiny apartment as mother and daughter pass small judgments back and forth about the corporeal and the theoretical, the cleanliness of the space, and the fraud of one’s southern accent. Hall builds on the duplicitousness of every comment, every look, as she mounts a subtle but stirring commentary about what happens when generations come together, especially to talk about other generations. Mama Jane is the kind of short comedy made for art houses and festivals, because it’s not just a comedy. It’s a window into a fraught moment, a record of the bittersweet toggling between smoking-a-cig-with-your-kid levity and what must always lie beneath.
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