by William Engel
Who’s “Jenna?” is very Funny, daring, and surprisingly intense.
The film follows Jonathan Burke (Bill Sorvino), a financial advisor who starts dating a lawyer named Jenna Casey (Tracey Birdsall) after meeting her at a bar. His best friend, Andy Roma (Joseph D’onofrio) notes that she bears a striking resemblance to a prolific porn star, leading both of them to suspect that they may be the same person. On top of that, her brother-in-law, Joe (Gary Pastore) happens to be Jonathan’s boss, who uses his new power to blackmail Joe into carrying out his amoral business practices; for instance, he demands Jonathan to close one of his client’s accounts simply because of his connections to the adult film industry.
The film is carried by several solid performances from the actors. Joseph D’onofrio gets plenty of laughs as the crass, porn-obsessed Andy Roma – a character who may be rude and intrusive, but at the same time is so pathetic that you can’t help but feel for him. Gary Pastore is potently despicable as Jonathan’s amoral boss, playing the part with an incessant bluster that never lets up. Bill Sorvino does a serviceable job as the story’s straight man and audience surrogate, and Tracey Birdsall does similarly well as his firm-but-sensitive love interest. As the two leads, they’re not especially interesting, but they’re sufficiently likable.
Tone-wise, the first act of the film is marked by a sort of self-conscious sleaziness; it’s tasteless, but it knows it’s tasteless and embraces it. The entrance of Jenna is marked by a slow-motion close-up on her face and the introduction of “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. When Jonathan’s porn star client starts to discuss his body of work, the camera zooms in on his bulge.
However, the film gets surprisingly emotional during the third act, when the full weight of the predicament starts to collapse on Jonathan. Jonathan knows that what his boss is doing is reprehensible, but he feels powerless to stop it, and that powerlessness and defensiveness really comes through in his performance when he desperately tries to justify his complacency to Jenna and Andy. That, in turn, makes it feel all the more gratifying when he finally does find a way to get back at his boss.
Simply put, “Who’s Jenna?” is audacious, cleverly written, compelling, and most of all, a ton of fun. Don’t miss it.