Wednesday, 28 July 2010

1. Jami Gertz

Jami was born on 28th October 1965 in Chicago to Italian-Jewish parents. She won a nationwide talent contest and studied drama at New York University. Her film career has been interspersed with regular roles in TV series such as Square Pegs, ER, Ally McBeal , Still Standing, The Facts Of Life and Entourage. She has made guest appearances in Seinfeld and Diff'rent Strokes. She has also done a fair amount of theatre work. In 1989 she got married to Toby Ressler and spent time in the early 90s working as a scent designer . She has 3 sons and she and her husband part-own the baseball franchise Milwaukee Raiders.

She has been picked first because she is absolutely stunning - simple as that.

1. On The Right Track (1981)

Jami's first film role was "Big Girl" in this comedy vehicle for Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman. She only has one line as a member of a street gang recruited by Coleman's young entrepreneur.

Coleman is Lester, a shoeshine boy who lives in Chicago's Union St station (sleeping in a luggage locker) because he's scared of the world outside. When the owner of the business he's undercutting reports him to the authorities , the social worker Frank (Michael Lembeck) discovers he has a gift for predicting race winners when he's shining shoes.

The film plays to Coleman's strengths, his old head on young shoulders persona and irrepressible cheek but it's not quite a feelgood movie. Nearly every character in the film, including his friends at the station, tries to exploit his talent. There's also some uncomfortable sexual and racial humour - " I could get raped !" is never a funny line even when uttered by a bag lady and Coleman's "Don't we all look the same ?" line is equally jarring. When Lester encounters a mugger who tells him to take his clothes off ( thankfully only the prelude to a lame sight gag ) you wonder where the film is going.

The other performances are generally good (although one Arthur Smith playing Gerald who robs Lester is horrendously wooden). Lisa Eilbacher as Jill, Lester's friend looks fantastic and generates sympathy as the one character who doesn't try to take advantage of  him. You feel she deserves a better love interest than the shallow, opportunistc Frank ( Lembeck is well cast). Norman Fell is also good as the cynical Mayor who gets involved with Lester.

For Coleman fans ( I'm indifferent ) it's worth catching but good luck as it's yet to be released on DVD.

2. Endless Love (1981)

Some sources give this as Jami’s first film though OTRT was definitely out first. Jami’s appearance in this is of the blink-and-you’ll miss her variety. She’s one of Brooke Shield’s schoolfriends complete with pigtails and glasses and is only on screen a few seconds. She is in the cast list as “Patty” but you can’t pick that up from the film which suggests that Jami fell victim to the editor’s scissors. Certainly a scene where Shields’ character discusses her relationship with friends would have fleshed out her character more.

Although Jami’s part is virtually non-existent, I’ll review the film here while it’s fresh in my mind as I’m not very interested in anyone else who appears in the movie. I didn't have the slightest interest in it when it first came out assuming it was as sappy as Lionel Ritchie's theme song. I also tend to avoid reviews of films before I see them so I didn't realise what a pasting this got from the critics, acquiring a generous set of  Golden Raspberry nominations.

Much of the criticism was based on affection for the source novel which I haven't read so I'm not going to go down that road except to note that the book is set in the late 60s and if director Franco Zeffirelli had stuck with that the film would have been a bit more plausible. There is still plenty to criticise when you view it as a standalone project.

Firstly there's the underage sex angle. Although Shields had turned 16 her co-star Martin Hewitt was 23 and the scene where they make love on the floor, while tastefully shot, is queasy enough before you factor in her mother watching them unobserved and getting off on it.

Then there's the plot. Hewitt is David , a Jewish lad of 17 who's developed an unhealthy obsession for 15-year old Jade ( Shields ) from the Butterfield family whose bohemian lifestyle seems to be part of the attraction in a Charles Ryder-esque way, given that his own parents have a cold, functional relationship on its last legs. David is welcomed in particularly by her hippie chick mother (Shirley Knight) less so by her more conservative father (Don Murray) whose affection for his daughter borders on the creepy and brother ( James Spader warming up his spoilt yuppie persona ). Mom manages to persuade Pop to  tolerate David bonking young Jade senseless all night in their house ( yeah, right ) until he discovers her taking pills to cope with the lack of sleep and not unreasonably demands they cool it for a month while she has exams. David reluctantly agrees but then listens to a harebrained scheme from his mate ( a debut for Tom Cruise in eye-wateringly tight denim shorts ) for winning back Pop's favour involving a box of matches. From that point on it becomes an increasingly ludicrous melodrama with an ambiguous ending but by that time you're so exasperated you couldn't care less.

Generally the performances aren't great . It's hard to know which is worse , Shields' utter blankness (although in mitigation the script doesn't give her much to work with) or Knight's hammy portrayal of a sexually frustrated mum. Hewitt is little better, his smug grin making it impossible to care for a character who is in any case verging on being a stalker. Don Murray is better ( and you end up rooting for him ) although let down by a showboating stunt double who makes his final scene unintentionally hilarious.

This film ended Brooke Shields' hopes of being taken seriously as an actress rather than a gossip column staple and neither she nor Hewitt who largely disappeared were ever trusted to lead a film again. So Jami was perhaps lucky  to be almost erased from it.

Jami spent the next three years in TV most notably in Square Pegs (1982-3) a high school comedy where she played a pompous Jewish prefect and Diff’rent Strokes spin-off The Facts of Life where she played a snob. This increased exposure led to a more substantial role in Jami’s next film.

3 Alphabet City (1984)

Jami  graduated  to  a  full  supporting  role  in  this  crime  thriller  as  Sophia  the  teenage  sister  of  the  main  protagonist  Johnny (Vincent  Spano)  who  has  started  working  as  an  escort.

The  film  was  directed  by  Amos  Poe  who  made  his  name capturing  the  New  York  punk  scene  of  the  late  70s. It's  so  grounded  in  the  mid-80s   it  almost  seems  like  a  spoof  in  places  with  its  frequent  dry  ice  night  club  scenes, the  focus  on  Johnny's  clothes, the  big  hair, designer  violence, pavement  breakdancers  and  Nile  Rodgers's  electrobeat  soundtrack.

Johnny  is  a  drug  dealer,  prowling  the  streets  in  a  white  Pontiac,  who  decides  to  quit  while  he's  ahead  for  a  variety  of  reasons , morality  seemingly  not  one  of  them  as  he's  quite  happy  to  shoot  people  and  steal  his  boss's  money  to  make  his  escape. That's  about  it  as  far  as  the  plot  goes; we  just  follow  Johnny  round  town  as  he  scares  his  mother  and  sister  out  of  their  home  ( his  boss  wants  it  burned  down ) , has  sex  with  his  artist  girlfriend  (Kate  Vernon), avoids  a  drug  bust  and  collects  his  loot.

Poe's  direction  is  very  flat   particularly  when  characters  are  conversing. He  seems  to  favour  Kubrick-esque  long  shots  with  the  characters  in  the  middle  distance  but  fails  to  put  anything  interesting  in  the  mise  en  scene. The  scene  where  Spano  tries  to  persuade Vernon  to  leave  town  is  particularly  badly  shot  ( not  helped  by  the  latter's  poor  acting ). The  climax  is  moderately  exciting  ( if  you  ignore  a  glaring  continuity  error  when  a  hood  gets  squashed  at  the  top  of  an  elevator  and  his  corpse  isn't  there when  it  comes  back  down ).

Spano  does  OK  with  such  a  thinly-written  role  and  perhaps  deserved  better  than  his  career  subsequently  delivered. Jami  is  only  in  the  first  half  hour  of  the  film  but  is  quite  good  at  conveying  her  character's  brainless  hedonism  and  looks  very  fetching  in  her  underwear  and  then  micro-dress.The  less  said  about  her  screen  mother's  acting  (Zohra  Lampert)  the  better.

While  hardly  essential  viewing  this  isn't  the  worst  film  of  Jami's  career  and   might  yet  become  a  kitsch  classic  given  the  breaks.

4 Sixteen Candles (1984)

Again, Jami’s part in this early John Hughes comedy starring Molly Ringwald is very minor. She plays Robin, a sidekick of Ringwald’s love rival Caroline, and has little to do other than laugh at her friend’s predicament when she gets her hair stuck in a door at a party.

That last sentence may give you an idea as to the general level of the comedy in this film. The premise is that Sam ( Ringwald ) wakes up on her 16th birthday to find that the rest of her family have forgotten it because her sister (Blanche Baker) is getting married next day. The only attention she attracts is of the unwelcome kind from the Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) while she pines for jock Jake (Michael Schoeffling). To make matters worse for her ( and us ) one set of grandparents have, for no credible reason, brought along a zany foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe) whose every scene is mildly racist and excrutiatingly unfunny. And a young Joan Cusack struggling to drink from a fountain with a neck brace isn't side-splitting either.

While it created few ripples here, the film was a critical and modest commercial succes over the pond and still retains some kudos. I can see how Ringwald ( long since a busted flush of course ) appeared a fresh and engaging talent but there's little else to enjoy here.

Post - American Pie the sex references and the antics of Hall's nerdy gang ( which includes John Cusack ) seem exceptionally tame and Schoeffling is as wooden as they come. Add to that a very uninspiring 80s soundtrack - the final scene dissolves into The Thompson Twins' "If You Were Here" which is lumpy even by their standards - and you have one dated and dull film.

5. Mischief (1985)

Have to be careful to avoid a spoiler here. Jami plays Rosalie, the class geek in this 50s set sex comedy. She's in glasses, braces and bunches for most of the film; that's as far as I can go.

Actually it's quite a small role ; the main protagonists are Jonathan (Doug McKeon) the short guy who doesn't get the girls and his newly-arrived guru, bad boy Gene (Chris Nash) who are chasing Marilyn ( Kelly Preston ) and Bunny ( Catherine Mary Stewart ) respectively. It's a very male-centric film; you don't really get a female point of view at all and despite the joke often being on McKeon's character it's still quite a sexist movie.

The film can best be summed up as an adult version of Happy Days ( with Jonathan as Ritchie although its flattering the wooden Nash to link him to Fonzie ). In fact , I was quite surprised by the language and how rude the film gets in scenes like Jonathan's boner embarrrassment. There's also a lengthy, though semi-comic, sex scene with McKeon and Preston where Mrs Travolta reveals all her hugely impressive charms. That said, her character lacks any depth and the film's main weakness is the complete lack of explanation for her attraction to Jonathan. Stewart's role is smilarly underwritten. All the adult characters are strictly one-dimensional.

It's an uneven film, very funny in parts but slow and uninvolving in others mainly down to Nash's inadequacy. The fifties soundtrack is excellent throughout.

Jami is good , the character being not too far removed from Muffy in Square Pegs but it's McKeon's film.

6. Quicksilver (1986)

Oh dear. Jami’s next film is a stinker. She is the main female character, Terri , a young runaway who signs up to the Quicksilver bicycle delivery firm. Also on the books is Jack Casey (Kevin Bacon) a former stockbroker who eschews the lifestyle after taking a big hit, for a freewheeling existence on the streets.

I’m at a loss where to start in describing the faults of this film. It’s a gruesome mash-up of Trading Places, Flashdance and bike porn with few redeeming features. It’s ironic that Jami’s next film was called Crossroads as a low-flying boom mike makes more than one appearance here. The road footage jumps between New York and San Francisco as if we’re not all too familiar with those switchback hills from the Dirty Harry movies. Real cycle afficionados might get something out of the riding scenes if they can bear the music which veers between Irene Cara-style bombastic dance-rock and the tuneless keyboard meanderings of Tony Banks. Even they might balk at the ludicrous dance scene where Bacon ( who clearly performs at least some of the stunts himself ) rides around his unintroduced girlfriend Rand (Whitney Kershaw) who is doing a lame routine on his apartment floor. The narrative is absolutely abysmal, the drugs plot having to be re-introduced several times after we’ve forgotten about it. Early on Jack sees a bike in a window, then we cut immediately to Terri’s initiation into which Jack later rides in as an established employee . There’s a big goof where the drug dealer Gypsy (Rudy Ramos) gives Terri 5 dollars to pay her bill in a diner ( as they often do of course ) and she leaves without handing it over the counter. The finale is ludicrous , taking place in conveniently cleared streets and switching suddenly from night time to mid-morning

The performances are not great. Only Paul Rodrigues (Hector) and Larry Fishburne (Voodoo) stand out from the pack of riders introduced to Terri. It would be generous to suggest the others have even two dimensions ; most don’t do any riding either just act as a sort of Greek chorus. One guy is a John Candy lookalike in a brown suit. Fishburne exits too early, mown down in broad daylight by Ramos the sort of anonymous thug that gets blown away by Charles Bronson in the Death Wish films. Bacon shows exactly why he never cut it as a leading man, all moody stares and garbled dialogue, although he’s not helped by a terrible script. His visit back to his parents is so badly-written it’s painful to watch and becomes just a recap of an earlier scene in case we’d forgotten – “Dad, you offered to make me a SANDWICH ! “

I have to admit that Jami is awful too. She looks great and starts out OK in familiar vein as a tough-talking but obviously vulnerable street kid but soon degenerates into moody stares and hair-flicking particularly in her scenes with Ramos where she scowls at him before doing exactly what she’s bidden. She also does conspicuously little riding in the film. Any chemistry between her and Bacon is non-existent, their joint scenes are totally flat.

This is a film that neither would place very prominently on their c.v.

7. Crossroads (1986)

Jami was on a roll now, working with director Walter Hill and co-star Ralph Macchio. It's the story of a young guitar player Eugene (Macchio) obsessed with the Blues who learns that an old man, Willie (Joe Seneca) in a penal hospital nearby was formerly a sideman to Robert Johnson and might know the fabled "lost song" (Johnson having famously committed just 29 songs to wax) . At first Willie doesn't want to know but then comes to a deal whereby if Eugene busts him out he will take him to Mississipi to find the song.

From there on in it becomes a road movie with Eugene learning life lessons along the way. Jami plays Frances, a young dancer - at least that's what she says - hitchhiking to LA who encounters the duo in an abandoned house during a downpour (which clears up to a fine day in little over a minute but let's not quibble). There's a tantalising glimpse of Jami's bare back and white panties as she puts a T-shirt on then talks to them bra-less , Willie realising that she will aid them in getting rides. Frances is a feisty girl who aids Willie in an extortion scam, takes Eugene's virginity ( offscreen ) then parts company with them before the film's climax. It's a rather contrived role for the purpose of giving young Eugene the necessary experience of heartbreak but it at least allowed Jami to play a stronger character in control of her own fate.

It's  a  moderately  charming rites-of-passage film for the most part, with Seneca stealing all the scenes from the limited Macchio, and beautifully shot. However the climax, in introducing occult themes and a rock star cameo late in the film, is both jarring in tone and, once the premise is established, boringly predictable.

8. Solarbabies (1986)

Jami's  one  foray  into  sci-fi  was  this  rather  bizarre  effort  which  seems  to  divide  opinion  between  those  who  recall  it  rather  fondly  from  their  80s childhood  and  others  who  treat  it  with  utter  derision. Jami  is  the  female  lead  as  Tera, one  of  a  band  of  orphans who  become   freedom  fighters.

It's  a  real  magpie  of  a  film  directed  by  Alan  Jackson  who  was  better  known  as  a  choreographer. There  are  steals  from  other  movies  all  over  the  place  but  the  most  obvious  antecedents  are  Rollerball,  Logan's  Run  (with  which  it  has  Richard  Jordan  as  the  main  vilain  in  common) , E.T  and  Mad  Max. The  story  is  set  in  a  future  where  water  is  scarce  and  controlled  by  a  fascist  Protectorate  who  take  children  into  huge  orphanages in  the   desert  for  indoctrination  and  training  in  its  service. Part  of  the  training  involves  playing  a  violent  game  on  skates   and  Jami's  gang  break  a  rule  by  playing  outside  the  compound  one  night. When  they  scatter  at  the  arrival  of  Stricter  Grock (Jordan)  their  young  mascot  Daniel (Luke  Haas  the  big-eared  little  boy  from  Witness) finds  a  mysterious white ball  Bohdai  which,  in  an  R2D2  fashion,  begins  to  communicate  with  him.

Despite  the  futuristic  setting  there's  no  doubt  that  this  is  an  eighties movie  from  the  big  hair  to  Maurice  Jarre's  pounding  synth  score. It  obviously  had  a  decent  budget  as  there's  nothing  wrong  with  the  sets. The  major  problem  is  lack  of  narrative  coherence. How  come  a  planet  starved  of  water  has  so  much  smooth  surface  that  roller skating  is  the  best  means  of  getting  around ? Why  has  Haas' character  who  is  deaf   been  selected  for  training ?  Bohdai  changes  hands  twice  but  in  each  case   it's  a  long  while  before  you  realise  who's  got  it. Part  of  the  problem  is  a  hamfisted  edit,  most  obvious  when  the  gang  have  to  jump  across  a  chasm  to  escape  the  police  and  you  see  the  first  two  make  the  leap  and  then  the  fifth  (Jami's  jump  is  one  of  those  chopped  out ). It  also  leaves  the  fate  of  a  major  character  completely ( and  I  think  not  deliberately )  unknown in  the  film's  climax. Jami's  rescue  of  the  gang  from  the  clutches  of  bounty  hunters  ( played  in  wildly  OTT fashion  by  Alexei  Sayle  and  Bruce  Payne )  isn't  believable  because  there  isn't  enough  time  allowed  in  the  storyline  to  set  it  up.

Jami  is  OK   though  she  still  needs  to  cut  out  the  mardy  squawk  her  voice  drops  into  when  her  characters  are  subdued. It  has  to  be  said  she  looks  terrific  and  there's  some  titillation when  the  camera  dwells  on  her  rear  in  tight  shorts  and  the  cave  scene  where  she's  in  a  damp  white  robe  and  lit  from  behind. The  other  kids  are  not  very  impressive. Jason  Patric is  embarrassingly  bad  in  the  scene  where  he  has  a  heart-to-heart  with  Bohdai ; it  can't  be  easy  talking  to  a  plastic  ball  but  even  so. Haas  too  is  dreadful  though  you  have  to  sympathise  with  him  when  the  sadistic  scriptwriter  has  people  keep  mentioning  his  ears ; there's  no  real  need  for  his  character  to  be  deaf   and  it  only  draws  attention  to  his  outsized  jugs. The  acting  honours  instead  go  to  Jordan  who  brings  real  menace  to  the  role  particularly  in  the  surprisingly  nasty  torture  scenes  which  earned  the  film  its  15 certificate.

It  isn't  the  worst  film  ever  by  a  long  way  but  it  definitely  needed  another  edit.

9. The Lost Boys (1987)

This is of course Jami's most enduring film , the starting point for all your Buffy's, Angels, True Bloods etc, in making the vampire concept sexy again. It was the second film in a row she'd made with Jason Patric.

Unfortunately it's not her best role. Jami plays Star, a gypsy-like siren who leads Patric's character, Michael into a motorcycle gang led by Keifer Sutherland who turn out to be vampires. She herself is a half-vampire who is supposed to complete the transition by making Michael her first kill but develops human feelings for him instead. There's no real explanation for Sutherland's patience with her and her motivations are a bit unclear throughout. In the film's climax she's just a bystander.

The film as a whole holds up pretty well mixing impressive horror effects with some good-natured comedy mostly supplied by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as Edgar and Alan (did you spot that one ?) the teenage vampire hunters who assist Michael's brother Sam (Corey Haim) in his efforts to rescue him. There's a good soundtrack as well which made a decent standalone album. Sutherland is excellent as the feral gang leader more James Dean than Christopher Lee and Dianne West gives her usual turn as a muddle-minded mum. It is ultimately more style than substance but an enjoyable couple of hours nonetheless.

It was around this time that Jami expressed dissatisfaction with her roles to date saying "Most of the part's I've played have been passive girls who are just sort of there. I have trouble with that because I'm not like that and being passive gets you in big trouble generally."

10. Less Than Zero (1987)

This is Jami's most controversial film due to the very public disapproval the author Bret Easton Ellis and his fans expressed about this adaptation of his work. The script went through numerous re-writes and progressive bowdlerisation until it ended up with an anti-drugs message that's nowhere to be found in Ellis's bleak satire. In particular Jami's character Blair was very different from the girl in the book and some of the criticism was aimed at Jami herself. In the sort of metaconcept beloved of Tom Ewing, Ellis had the eponymous antihero of his next novel American Psycho sarcastically ask a video store clerk for something featuring Jami Gertz to break up his usual viewing of video nasties.

I have read the book and the differences are so major it's not worth me going through them all; the film must be assessed on its own merits.

The action is set entirely amongst the rich and privileged of Palm Springs, L.A. and concerns three ex-schoolfriends the straight, studious Clay (Andrew McCarthy), the debauched Julian (Robert Downey Junior) and aspiring model Blair (Jami) who is somewhere in between. Clay returns home from college for Christmas partly in response to a call from Blair who wants him to try and help Julian despite their cheating on him earlier and the fact she is a casual cokehead herself. Julian is also being tracked for a large debt by his dealer Rip (James Spader).

Most of the film involves the characters pursuing each other through wild parties of eighties excess and fashion wherein lurk a young extra called Brad Pitt (blink and you'll miss him) and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (ditto). However it is interspersed with some more touching scenes such as the one where Clay talks to Julian in a park with a child swinging in the foreground or the one where Julian runs into Clay's little sister while he's burgling her mother's jewellery and she just sees him as the family friend he used to be. It avoids a lot of the more irritating eighties tropes like breakdancers in the background and Tangerine Dream scores and has a decent soundtrack.

The performances are variable. Downey Junior is superb at portraying Julian's disintegration; of course now we know why but that still doesn't detract from a brilliant performance. Spader too is excellent as the smooth-talking scumbag who does embody all the nihilism of Ellis's vision. Jami's performance is uneven. You sense she's pushing at the limits of her range and kills some good lines stone dead as if she hasn't really understood the script. She does get better in the latter part of the film when the character shows a more human compassionate side and she gets back into her comfort zone. She's still better than McCarthy though who's well out of his depth here constantly switching between a limited range of facial expressions and failing to deliver any of his lines with much conviction.

I don't think it's a bad film especially for the less than classic era in which it was made. The climactic scene is quite moving despite being a tad unlikely and neither Spader nor Downey Junior have ever been better. One for a re-evaluation I think.

11. Listen To Me (1989)

Jami's next  film made rather less impact despite the presence of Hollywood heavyweight Roy Scheider. That  could  be  down  to  the  premise  that  college  debating  is  the  new  rock  and  roll ; no  one  actually  says  that  but  setting  a  montage  of  debating  heads  to  the  strains  of  Tutti  Frutti  makes  the point.

The  plot,  such  as  it  is,  sees  two   kids   from  blue  collar  backgrounds,  Monika ( Jami )  and  Tucker  ( Kirk  Cameron )  getting  a  "debate  scholarship"  to  attend  a  prestigious  college  which  regularly  wins  debating  competitions  thanks  to  the  obligatory inspirational  coach  Charlie  ( Scheider ). The  current  star  of  the   debating  team  is  senator's  son  Garson  ( Tim Quill ) who  takes  the  newcomers  under  his  wing  but  is  a  troubled  soul  ( though  not  to  the  extent  you'd  care  about  him ). 

There  are  many, many  reasons  not  to  see  this  film - Kirk  Cameron's  mullet, Kirk  Cameron  ( a  bargain  basement  Michael  J Fox  if , like  me,  you  don't  remember  him ), the  godawful soundtrack*  with  horrible  eighties  plinky  keyboards  announcing  every  dramatic  moment, a  predictability  factor  that  makes  Quincy  seem  like  Twin  Peaks  and  a  script  that  throws  its  woolly  liberal  values  at  you  with  the  subtlety  of  a  sledgehammer. The  characters  are  all  pretty  cardboard  ; the  love  triangle  involving  the  three  youngsters  is  unconvincing  and  resolved  with  a  jarring  leap  into  melodrama , unintentionally but  neatly  summarised  by  Scheider's  line  "That's  a  load  of  crap". In  the  last  quarter  of  the  film  they're  just  ciphers  mouthing  arguments  on  a  certain  divisive  issue,  but  it's  not  written  well  enough  to  be  a  worthwhile  contribution. Oh  and  I nearly  forgot  the  unintroduced  character  who  makes  little  drawings  interpreting  the  action  then  disappears  halfway  through  the  film

However  this  is  one  of  Jami's  better  roles; despite  Cameron's  top  billing  she  is  the  lead  and  acquits  herself  well,  especially  in  her  set  piece  speech  at  the  end  when  she  could  easily  have  come  unstuck.  By  contrast  you  have  to  watch  Cameron's  hammy wrapping  up  from  behind  the  sofa  and  what  debate  team  would  deploy  someone  with  such  a  squeaky  voice ? Quill  is  equally  bad. Scheider  didn't  do  bad  performances  and  it's  always  a  plus  when  he's  on  screen  despite  some  terrible  lines

*The  film  does  feature  Alphaville's  Forever  Young  and  Julia  Fordham's  Happy  Ever  After  but  otherwise  the  music  is  appalling

12. Zwei Frauen (aka Silence Like Glass) ( 1989 )

This  was  Jami's  most  ambitious  role. She  plays  Eve  Martin ,a  ballet  dancer  cut  down  by  leukaemia  and  awaiting  death  in  a  specialist  hospital  with  foul  mouthed  and  similarly-afflicted  Claudia ( Martha  Plimpton )  for  a  room-mate.

This  tear-jerker  based  on  true-life  events  is  a  German-made  film  with  a  largely  American  cast  and  as  such  largely  avoids  the  cloying  sentimentality that  would  inevitably  mar  a  Hollywood  treatment  of  the  same  subject  matter. In  stark  contrast  to  Jami's  previous  film , it  boasts  an  excellent, suitably  sparse  score  from  Anne  Dudley  which  adds  to  the  sense  of  pervasive  dread  throughout  the  film. This  isn't  one  to  watch  when  you're  down  in  the  dumps  but  it  has  some  powerful  scenes  that  stay  with  you.

It's  not  a  masterpiece. There's  an  awful  dance  sequence  to  Yello's  The  Race   which  is  subsequently  explained  but  still  seems  out  of  place. And  the  perpetually dim  lighting  does  eventually  wear  you  down ; you  end  up  willing  every  character  who  walks  into  a  room  to  reach  for  the  light  switch. The  make-up's  not  top  notch  either; Jami's  bald  dome  is  obviously  a  skullcap.

Before  we  come  to  Jami,  the  acting  is  pretty  good  all  around  although  a  podgy  George  Peppard  as   Eva's  father  doesn't  deserve  third  billing  for  his  meagre  contribution. It's  nice  to  see  Bruce  Payne  ( who  worked  with  Jami  on  Solarbabies )  in  a  sympathetic  role  as  a  caring  young  doctor  and  Rip  Torn  is  excellent  as  the  head  surgeon. Martha  Plimpton  is  a  bit  of  a   problem. She  acts  well  enough  but  her  character  is  so  one-dimensional  her  role  in  the  film  seems  to  be  to  test  the  viewer's  forbearance. Can  you  sympathise  with  this  person's  plight  when  all  she  does  is  tell  people  to  fuck  off  ad  nauseum ?

On  balance  this  is  Jami's  best  performance; it's not  perfect - her  diction  gets a  bit  garbled in  her  angry  scenes  but  she  plays  all  the  toughest  scenes  with  real  conviction. The  scene  when  she  discovers  her  hair  is  falling  out  is  the  best  moment  of  her  career  and  certainly  had  me  in  tears . I'm  not  sure  how  much  of  the  dancing  is  her; in  the  early  scenes  the  camera  seems  to  come  close  enough  to  confirm it's  not  Jami  but  if  so  the  edit  when  she  falls  is  pretty  seamless. And  speaking  of  possible  body  doubles , if  it is  Jami  on  the  operating  table  when  she  receives  CPR,  this  film  includes   the  only  topless  scene  of  her  career  although  you'd  have  to  be  very  quick  with  the  pause  button  to catch  it.  

 13. Renegades (1989)

Well unlucky 13 for Jami as this is by far her worst film role and exemplifies exactly what she was complaining about a couple of years earlier. Maybe it was the prospect of  playing alongside Keifer Sutherland again that made her inattentive to the script. She plays Barbara the villain's girlfriend and her only purpose in the film is to die which she does in one of the many shoot-outs ( and can be seen flinching from the shots  Sutherland fires after her death ).

Not that any one comes out of this with any credit. Sutherland is an undercover cop running with a jewel thief ( Robert Knepper ) who decides on impulse to steal a sacred Native American lance from a museum he's running through. He kills a Native American who intervenes and shoots Sutherland as well. For no obvious reason it's left to the dead man's brother played by Lou Diamond Phillips to nurse him back to health  and they team up to bring down the villain. From that point on it's just a loud , superficial, over-violent, rip-off of the likes of Lethal Weapon without even a hint of humour to redeem it. Despite being great pals in real life Sutherland and Phillips ( who seems to be after the lance because they came from the same tree ) have no chemistry at all, the sub-plot about police corruption is boring and the Native American themes are treated with the sensitivity you'd expect to find in a  John Wayne movie. It's one of the worst films of the eighties.

14. Don't Tell Her It's Me (aka The Boyfriend School) ( 1990 )

Unfortunately this one's terrible too in a different way. Jami plays Emily Pear, a journalist interviewing successful author Lizzie (Shelley Long) who's trying to pair her up with her self-pitying brother who's recovering from chemo (Steve Guttenberg in a skullcap). Unsurprisingly Emily's not very interested so Long persuades him to shape up, buy a motorbike and let his hair grow back into a hideous mullet which makes him look like Billy Ray Cyrus. Then the intelligence of the audience and that of Jami's supposedly sharp character is really insulted as he poses as Lobo from Europe to win her over.

It's buttock-clenchingly bad. There's a supposedly cute kid who definitely isn't though she performs one useful function in spilling ink on Emily's dress so we get a peek at her in her undies, the sole reason I can think of for recommending anyone watch it. Long is absolutely dreadful, woodenly drawling her lines in a manner reminiscent of the dreaded Sondra Locke. Kyle McLachlan as Emily's sleazy boss is totally wasted. Guttenberg looks suitably embarrassed and often as if he's about to corpse which is understandable. Jami actually does quite well with a totally unbelievable part though her wide-eyed stare is overused and becomes annoying.

At the time of writing this is the only one of Jami's movies you can watch on youtube. I'm guessing that's because no one wants to own up to the copyright of the wretched thing.

15. Sibling Rivalry (1990)

This one's at least an improvement on the last two horrors but it's a strange unsatisfying film that never seems sure where it wants to go. It's trying to be both a tasteless comedy and a family drama and each gets in the way of the other. Directed by veteran Carl (father of Rob) Reiner it stars Kirstie Alley as the prim, lonely wife of a doctor (Scott Bakula) who is suffocated by his WASP family. The wild card in her life is (much) younger sister Jeanine (Jami's part) who goads her into having an affair with a man she meets in a shop (Sam Elliott). He dies moreorless in the act and much complication ensues...

However the potential for a good black farce only half-materialises. There's not enough action for a start , the corpse remaining in situ while Alley and Bill Pullman , a blinds salesman who becomes involved in a very contrived way, discuss their predicament at considerable length. There are some chuckles to be had but they're well spaced out and the resolution is abrupt and very stagey. There's also the odd error like Elliott's corpse bleeding from the wound Pullman inflicts long after he's cold and which then goes unmentioned in the autopsy scene later in the film

The performances are generally good although Pullman's nerviness is a bit overdone. Alley is very convincing and sympathetic throughout while Carrie Fisher is excellent as her appalling sister-in-law. Jami herself does well although the role is somewhat underwritten; her passion for fish is never really explained nor is her romantic relationship with Ed O Neill as Pullman's brother very believable.

16. Jersey Girl (1992)

This was Jami's third comedy in a row and her last film for four years. She takes the lead as Toby, a nice girl from the wrong end of town who falls in with a yuppie, Sal (Dylan McDermott).

It's a likeable enough, though never very funny, romcom but originality isn't its strong point with echoes of An Officer And A Gentleman , Pretty In Pink and especially Pretty Woman. Toby is a nursery attendant getting bored of her surroundings and lifestyle who contrives to hook up with Sal by causing a road accident. It turns out he comes from a humble background too and is being goaded for it by his blue-blooded bitchy girlfriend (Sheryl Lee). Where things go from there is probably already obvious but I won't do a spoiler.

Jami is fine and sympathetic despite her rather mercenary motivation , ( later denied unconvincingly in the script ) although the role doesn't stretch her that much. McDermott is a good foil and has the charisma to convince while Lee and Philip Casnoff as Sal's reptilian boss ( the sort of role James Spader excels in ) do their bit as the villains of the piece.

It's thoroughly inessential viewing and takes a rather glib standpoint on class conflict but enjoyable enough on its own terms.

17. Twister (1996)

Jami returned to the silver screen as a supporting player after four years, two kids and plenty of TV work notably in Sibs. The good news was that this was a massive box office hit. The bad news was that Jami was nominated for a Golden Raspberry as Worst Supporting Actress for her contribution.

While not arguing that Jami is brilliant in this because she isn't, I think that was unfair because the role is terrible. She plays Melissa the fiancee of meterologist Bill (Bill Paxton) who comes out into the field with him to get divorce papers signed by his colleague and estranged wife Jo (Helen Hunt). While she's there the tornados arrive and you're expecting her to die any moment but she survives a few scrapes and then amicably gives up on Bill and exits the movie two thirds of the way through. It's a strangely pointless part and there was little chance of anyone impressing in it. Jami is noticeably older and a lot bulkier as well.

The film itself is entertaining enough with excellent special effects and a considerably less impressive script. Neither Paxton nor Hunt are likeable enough to make you care who lives or dies and Cary Elwes is a bit weak as their villainous rival. A decent date movie but not one that lingers long in the memory.

18. Seven Girlfriends ( 1999 )

After having another child and a stint in ER , Jami closed out the millennium  with a small role in this  romantic  comedy. This   was  quite  difficult  to  track  down,  perhaps  because  its  main  star  Tim  Daly  failed to  make  it  in  films  although  he's  pretty  ubiquitous  on  US  telly.

Daly  plays  Jesse  whose  girlfriend  Hannah ( Olivia D'Abo )  breaks  up  with  him  when  he  takes  a  call  from  an  ex  Annabeth  ( Laura  Leighton ) moments  before  she's  wiped out  in  a  road  accident. As  he  waits  for  the  funeral  Jesse  - having  presumably  read  High  Fidelity - decides  to  visit  all  his  other ex's  to  talk  about  what  went  wrong.

Although  the  film  is  not  as  clever  as it  thinks  it  is,  it's  still  fairly  enjoyable  with  some  genuinely  funny  scenes  and  some  neat  plot  twists. It's  also  got  plenty  of  Crowded  House  on  the  soundtrack  which  is  a  plus. The  little  vignettes  with  the  ex's  are  not  equally  absorbing  - it's  difficult  to  see  what  Katy  Selverstone's  character  brings  to  the  party  for  instance - but  it  mostly  works. The  action  flits  between  present day, flashbacks  and  fantasy  sequences  but  it  does  all  tie  up  in  the  end  if  you  stay  alert.

Political  correctness  rears  its  ugly  head  a  bit  when  Jesse  finds  that  Elisabeth  Pena  has turned  gay. After  utterly  humiliating  him  at  her  baby  shower -  a  completely   unfunny  scene -  she  and  her  mates suddenly  turn  all  sympathetic  and   caring  without  explanation  other  than  the  film's  need  to  avoid  leaving  a  negative  impression  of   lesbians.

Tim  Daly  is  droll  but  a  little  bland  in  the  main  role. Mimi  Rogers  and  Melora  Hardin  are  the  pick  of  the  girls  acting-wise  although  we  could  do  without  the  latter's  little  ballad halfway  through. There's  some  brief  topless  action  from  Jennifer  Gibson  who  I  presume  is  British  from  her early  appearances  in  Lovejoy  and  Love  Hurts.

Jami  plays  one  of  the ex's  though  why  Jesse  needs  to  see  her  when  he  broke  off  the  relationship  isn't  really  explained. She  does  fine  as  the still-angry  discard  but  she's  only  in  it  for  about  10  minutes.

19. Lip Service (2001)

This dark and unsettling independent film gave Jami her best role for well over a decade.

She plays Kat an old college friend of yuppie Allison (Sybil Temtchine) who crashes the funeral of a mutual friend dishevelled and intoxicated. Allison invites her to crash at her place where it is revealed that Allison's success stems from reproducing a red plastic chair that Kat gifted to her in the confusing prologue. This is the weakest point of the film since the chair is absolutely hideous. Kat then proceeds to dismantle Allison's life as the comedy gets progressively darker until you cease to laugh at all.

Jami is very good indeed, maintaining the script's ambiguity as to whether Kat is deliberately engineering Allison's downfall as an act of revenge or merely following her feral instincts. It's also a physically demanding role as Kat is dirty and slutty throughout and eventually suffers a ferocious beating. The unknown ( to me anyway ) Temtchine is also impressive as she half-welcomes the upheaval Kat brings with her ,  at  least up to the point where she is effectively raped by Kat's drug dealing boyfriend  Sebastion ( Adewale  Akinnuoye-Agbaje ) .

An  impressive  film but  not  one to watch with your mum.

By this time Jami had landed a good role on Ally McBeal ( which I'd given up on by that stage unfortunately ) followed immediately by a starring role in Still Standing so it was another five years before her next film.

20. Keeping Up With The Steins (2006)

This  film  saw  Jami , now 40, returning to her roots as Joanne Fiedler the mother of a Jewish teenager preparing for his barmitzvah.

This is a good natured family comedy which is accessible to Gentiles without being hilariously funny to anyone. Benjamin ( Daryl Sabara ) is nervously awaiting a barmitzvah which his father (Jeremy Piven) is determined will top the one lavished on their son by his neighbours the Steins. This appallingly tasteless event forms the opening scene. Benjamin isn't sure he's ready for it at all and his father has his own issues to deal with when his errant father Irwin (Garry Marshall) shows up.

Jami's is the voice of reason in the film and it's a bit disappointing to find her in an undemanding character part although she fares better than Daryl Hannah who's totally unnecessary to proceedings as Irwin's girlfriend.

21. Dealin With Idiots  ( 2013 )

HOUSE  ! ! !

Yep, with  this  one  I've  finally  seen  every  film  my  first  subject  has  made, five +  years  after starting  the  blog.

Jami  came  back  to  films  after a  seven  year  break   during  which  she  appeared  in  the  TV  series  Shark, Entourage  and  The  Neighbors.

This  is  a  low  budget  comedy, written, directed  and  starring  comedian  Jeff  Garlin. No  I've  never  heard  of  him  either  but  he  was  in  Curb  Your  Enthusiasm  and  directed  some  episodes. He  also  does  a  fair  bit  of  voice  acting  and  looks  a  bit  like  John  Goodman.

Jeff  plays  Max, a  comedian  and  film  director  ( not  too  much  of  a  stretch  I guess )  who  decides  to  talk  to  the  other  parents  and  the  coaches  at  his  child's  baseball  club  as  research  for  a  possible  film  project. That's  it  as  far  as  the  plot  goes. Like  CYE  it's  essentially  a  comedy  of  embarrassment  with  Max  open-mouthed  at  the  lifestyles  and  foibles  of  these  eccentric  characters  like  the  self-important  coach  who  runs  the  local  print  shop ( Bob  Odenkirk ) and  the  foul-mouthed  lesbian ( Kerri  Kenney-Silver )  who  accuses  her  partner  of  trying  to  turn  their  adopted  son  gay.  I  particularly  liked   Steve  Agee  as  Hezekiah, the  bearded  weirdo  who  thinks  he's  on  to  something  important. For  different  reasons  I  liked  Deanna  Brooks  as  one  of  two  bikini-clad  girls  hanging  round  the  pad  of  the  team's other  coach ( J.B. Smoove ).

The  script  was  mostly  improvised  and  it  is  funny  in  parts  but  runs  out  of  steam  after  an  hour  when  Max  starts  questioning  his  own  parenting   approach and  the  finale  when  he  has  to  step  in  as  coach  is  just  plain  boring.

For  the  first  time  in  her  career  Jami  (  who  worked  with  Garlin  on  Entourage )  plays  a   thoroughly  obnoxious  character, a  hustling  sports  mom  trying  to  make  a  buck  by  providing  refreshments  to  the  team  and  too  tight-fited  to  offer  Max  a  lift  home. She's  pretty  good  and  still  in  great  shape.

Jami  turns  50  next  month.  


This is a blog dedicated to my favourite actors and actresses, tracking them film by film. As you might imagine, especially if you've played the Kevin Bacon game, there'll be a fair amount of cross-referencing to avoid duplication and revisiting old posts to fill in gaps. In the latter case, I will post alerts when there's been something new added.

I am red-blooded hetero so make no apologies for a leaning towards actresses here.