LAST SUMMER IN THE HAMPTONS is a Henry Jaglom film. He is the
director, the editor, and to the extent there is a script, he wrote it.
As in most of his movies, he also plays a role, albeit a small role in
this film. Jaglom is arguably the most independent of film makers in
America today. He makes his movies for himself and allows the audience
to view them much as your neighbor might invite you over for some home
movies. He is frequently criticized for being self-indulgent, but to
me that is his charm.
Although Jaglom films can be pretentious one moment and totally
off the wall the next, they always push the edge of the envelope. My
favorite is ALWAYS (1985) which should not be confused with Spielberg's
ALWAYS (1989) with Holly Hunter. Jaglom's ALWAYS is a
pseudo-documentary about the signing of his divorce papers and has a
subtitle of BUT NOT NECESSARILY FOREVER. In ALWAYS he has a weekend
party and invites his soon to be ex over along with all of their
friends. It was one of my top ten movies of the 80s.
Jaglom does not mind experimenting which means some of his movies
are turkeys, but others are brilliant successes. I found LAST SUMMER
IN THE HAMPTONS to be a minimally enjoyable movie, but one that,
nevertheless, has a certain fascination. It starts with the strains of
"Accentuate the Positive". This choice of this tune has a meaning you
may want to ponder during the slow parts of the film. In typical
Jaglom style the picture is shot (Hanania Baer) frequently with a
single handheld camera and too many pans and zooms that leave the
In LAST SUMMER IN THE HAMPTONS, Helena Mora (Viveca Lindfors) the
matriarch of an artistic family invites everyone back for the last
summer they will have in the family home in the Hamptons before it is
sold. Helena is a great star who owns the large sprawling home.
Although retired from acting herself, she teaches it to others. Her
family consists of her son-in-law, avant-garde director Ivan Axelrod
(Andre Gregory), his daughter Trish (Melissa Leo) and his playwright
son Jake (Jon Robin Baitz), Helena's son Eli Garield (Ron Rifkin) and
his daughter Chlow (Martha Plimpton), and others. To the estate they
have invited the currently famous actress Oona Hart (Victoria Foyt).
The family is one who prides themselves in taking forever to
produce their artistic endeavors and not caring if they are financially
successful. Jake however informs the audience that "the dirty little
secret of the avant-garde is they are jealous of money." It is as if
Jaglom is saying this himself. As if he is saying, I only make these
art house pictures and although I claim not to care, I wish one would
become a major hit that would make me filthy rich.
When Jaglom shows up in the movie, he plays Oona's agent Max. Max
wants her to play a sequel to the mindless but popular movie she just
finished. He claims that if she does this, she could start commanding
two to three million dollars per picture. She is angry because she
feels her life is being wasted and tells him forcefully, "We could have
done something important Max. We could have fought child abuse or
Although Oona is successful, she keeps trying to improve her
craft. She does this by acting as a baby seal, a leopard, and a heron.
She has long scenes where she converses with people acting and talking
like these animals. A great but failed attempt by Jaglom at
creativity. Poor Foyt really put herself out on a limb and tried hard,
but ended up looking bizarre and totally ridiculous. When he has Andre
Gregory (MY DINNER WITH ANDRE and VANYA ON 42ND STREET) act as a
leopard wooing Foyt's leopard, you want to yell at the screen to get
The best and only part of show that really works is the way it
deals with Trish and her incestuous relationship with her gay brother
Jake. None of the rest of the characters in this movie are the least
bit believable, but Jake and especially Trish are. They have a serious
problem to deal with and the movie handles the touchy subject of incest
honestly and amazingly well. To further complicate things, Trish
complains that Jake steals all of her boyfriends.
LAST SUMMER IN THE HAMPTONS runs overly long at 1:45. It is rated
R for some bad language and for the incest themes. It is a soft R and
would be fine for teenagers. Although I can not recommend the movie,
I'm glad I gave it a try. Mining Jagloms can sometimes turn up gold,
but then again, sometimes not. For the risk taking and for the
excellent acting by Melissa Leo and Jon Robin Baitz, I give it * 1/2.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes