DVD Review - Eating: 20th Anniversary Edition

Henry Jaglom's Eating was released theatrically in November 1990. It was the independent filmmaker's 7th movie. It became his highest grossing at the box office and was eventually made available on video the following year. Breaking Glass Pictures has decided to re-release his critically-acclaimed work for a special 20th anniversary edition.

Eating centers on a group of women and only women who are family and friends. The movie takes place all in one day and only one day. All the women gather in one house to celebrate not one but two birthdays. One of the women is a French filmmaker named Martine. She's making a documentary on women and food.

Using her camera, Martine interviews the various women. Even before the camera starts rolling, issues of age and weight come up. In fact, body issues, men and the biological clock dominant the topics of discussion. One woman talks about eating to fill emptiness in her life. Another woman talks about not being able to eat around others. For many of the women, the chief concern is not turning fat.

The movie is essentially a series of brief conversations, one after the other. Some of these conversations are self-contained. Others are continuously cross-cut between others. Each of the conversations are candid, honest and very raw. Through true testimonials and confessions, the women also reveal things that are nothing short of heartbreaking and insightful.

When I spoke to Jaglom, he said that the screenplay for this movie had no speeches or dialogue whatsoever. His 60-page script did include a narrative involving three female characters, but, by the end of this movie, we hear from about 30 women. All the speeches and dialogue those 30 or so women utter didn't come from Jaglom. They came from the actresses themselves.

In an interview for MovieMaker magazine, Jennifer Wood comments that Jaglom works in an improvisational way and that he's an actor's director. He told me that this basically means he gives his actor's freedom to speak and explore their characters with much creative control.

Jaglom told me that one of his inspirations was Fellini's 8 1/2. Jaglom said what he appreciated about that Italian film was the truthfulness of telling one's own life. In Eating, Jaglom wanted the same. He wanted his actresses telling their own lives. Even in a fictional framework, he wanted truthfulness.

Jaglom described it as reality television but in the movies. The 70-year-old said every woman he's ever known has had a major issue with food. Jaglom said Hollywood wasn't really addressing these issues, certainly not on the big screen. He said he wanted to fill in this gap, so he did a series of films focusing on women.

This particular movie works under the umbrella of women's relationships with food, but it's not just that. There are myriads of other things that get brought up and that are connected. Jaglom merely lets his actresses go because the only thing he wanted was "emotional openness."

After watching this film, I definitely felt that. I definitely felt the emotional openness. When I tried to think of a recent, mainstream film to which I could compare, I couldn't immediately think of one. This is because Hollywood doesn't make movies like this even 20 years since Jaglom's Eating.

Supposedly, films and TV shows like Sex and the City are proof that Hollywood does make things that are about women. Yet, arguably, these things don't come close to the emotional openness that Jaglom achieved. After watching this film, the movies in proximity that came to mind were things like Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters or Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Those movies are in proximity because of subject matter but in a barely-existent plot over character-driven material way.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 50 mins.


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