NEW YEAR’S DAY (1989) – HAPPY NEW YEAR! Balladeer’s Blog welcomes in 2023 with this review of Henry Jaglom’s comedy-drama New Year’s Day, released on December 13th, 1989, and best known for the appearance of an all-nude David Duchovny. Jaglom wrote and directed this movie, as he had so many before it. Henry also plays a major role in New Year’s Day as Drew, a middle-aged writer/ director who recently got a divorce and has moved back to New York City from Los Angeles to start anew.
He had sublet his apartment while in L.A. and arrives in the wee hours of a very snowy New Year’s Day to discover that the subletters are still there, because their signed agreement gave them occupancy through January 1st. Drew thought that meant they would be gone by the 1st of the year, and after some initial arguing, the older man agrees to let the ladies stay that one last day.
All the hotels are full because it’s New Year’s, so Drew hangs around the apartment as the three young women pack up while throwing a combination New Year and going away party for themselves. Assorted friends and relatives of the female trio come and go throughout the day.
The three women are Lucy, played by Maggie Jakobson – who would soon marry in real life and become better known under her married name Maggie Wheeler – Annie, portrayed by Gwen Welles, and the late Melanie Winter as Winona.
Typical of a Henry Jaglom flick, the characters talk and talk and talk, mostly about themselves, and mostly about things that only privileged, white New York & Los Angeles figures obsess over. Jaglom got his start in Independent Filmmaking during the early 1970s, so, while this type of drama may have seemed new and refreshing back then, by 1989 it was already becoming the default setting for most self-consciously “deep” Indie movies.
Here in 2023, where this Indie approach has lapsed into virtual self-parody, much of Henry Jaglom’s oeuvre feels outdated and plays like a long series of student films. His characters don’t just talk about themselves ad nauseam, they psycho-analyze themselves and each other in stagey, inauthentic ways. If you want genuine emotion, you’ll only find it in a few of Jaglom’s movies.
The rest of his works, outside of Tracks (1976), are filled with the same type of manufactured emotions and self-reflecting epiphanies that are like the cinematic equivalent of the old joke about a stand-up comic who makes the band laugh, but not the audience. Well, okay, I grant you that if you’re in your early twenties the angst on display in New Year’s Day may really get to you, but Jaglom was pushing this same type of production for decades. Think “Direct to Video Emoting” that’s as formulaic as Direct to Video action movies.
As for the main characters, aspiring actress Lucy has a romantic dalliance with the much-older Drew, decides to move to Los Angeles to become a model, and dumps her philandering boyfriend Billy, played by the aforementioned David Duchovny. In real life, Maggie Jakobson and Duchovny had dated, and his sleeping around helped end their relationship.
Jakobson was reportedly reluctant at first to go along with Jaglom’s wish to cast her ex in such a hauntingly intimate role, but then agreed to it. The result is a combined psychodrama/ method acting/ role playing therapy session served up on a platter for Maggie. Her character catches Duchovny’s Billy en flagrante, gets to chew him out and shoves the excuse-making lothario out into the hallway, naked and with his little Fox Mulder bobbing around.
As for the other ladies, photographer Annie is a lesbian whose passion for Lucy is not reciprocated, and Winona is a successful editor who is feeling time running out on her, making her frantic to have a baby with or without a marital arrangement.
Drew, having observed all this drama, learns that even at his age he can still start fresh. In fact, the alternate title for this movie is New Year’s Day (Time to Move On). The timing of this film’s release ties into that theme, as the 1980s were about to be left behind for the incoming decade of the 1990s.
For trivia buffs, Milos Forman and Tracy Reiner also appear in the movie, along with several of Henry Jaglom’s regulars. David Duchovny is strictly in a supporting role, despite his prominence on so many DVD covers for this film after he became a big star.
New Year’s Day might make a good introduction to Jaglom’s work, but after you get more familiar with his output, you can’t help but develop a “been there, done that” feeling about many of his films.
FOR MY REVIEW OF THE NEW YEAR’S EVE COMEDY BLOODHOUNDS OF BROADWAY CLICK HERE.