I hate to give a bad review. I’m a movie lover and know that every ugly duckling has swan potential. Hell, even “The Room” has a following; it, at least, had a personality. “Who’s Jenna” killed every chance it had to win me over with a scattered plot and a lack of focus.
“Who’s Jenna” was written and directed by Thomas Baldinger and features a…somewhat out of nowhere appearance by adult film star Amber Lynn. I will go ahead and extend a little grace here; it will be the last time it happens in this review. Baldinger has made a name for himself with a couple of festival wins for short films, so he’s doing something right. Maybe if “Who’s Jenna” were a short film, it would have worked better.
“Who’s Jenna” has a bad case of “wait…what is this about?” See below the plot synopsis, as listed on IMDB:
“When Johnathan Burke, a financial advisor, starts dating Jenna Casey, an aspiring lawyer, Johnathan’s best friend Andy Roma is convinced she looks exactly like a famous adult film star. Not only does Johnathan have to deal with his friend’s claim but he also has to juggle his relationship with his boss, who is possibly blackmailing him and is Jenna’s brother-in-law.”
What does this movie sound like it’s about? For me, it set up something along the lines of “The Girl Next Door” circa 2004. A good ol’ “I think my girlfriend was a porn star/mistaken identity” romp.
What did we get? We got confused, offensive, and insincere – which was disappointing, let me tell you. Let’s dive right into the deep end with the biggest issue of the film: lack of focus. The film opens on a (semi-humorous) double birth. Two shrill pregnant women stereotypes and their brow-beaten husbands rush off to the hospital to deliver their sons, who would go on to become leading man Johnathan Burke and sidekick Andy Roma. The opening credits play over a montage of growing-up photos of the two boys. This is looking like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Oh boy. A bro-buddy sex comedy.
So what the hell happened? Sure, the friendship occasionally comes up. Yeah, the two guys room together. But the movie is, by no stretch of the imagination, about the friendship. What was the point of that first scene? Andy’s sole functions (and they are small) in this movie can be summarized in:
- Claiming Jenna looks like a pornstar
- Constantly searching for a box of porn (comedy!)
- Using his super-hacker IT skills to take a screenshot of a message and send it to his friend, at the film’s climax (what kind of high-level financial advisor has to get tech help to take a goddamn screenshot in 2018?
Okay. So, “Who’s Jenna” isn’t about the friendship. It must be about the love story.
Forced chemistry. Rushed romantic timeline. The most awkward “I love you” ever exchanged. I was not feeling it. Throw in a little bit of fake-out conflict that never really goes anywhere and no stakes whatsoever and you’ve got a rom-com that has no rom.
There’s still hope for this movie! The pornstar mystery! Nope. Two-thirds of a film spent on “is she/isn’t she?” and all we get is an “Oh, LOL, people say I look like her and we have a matching tattoo! Crazy right?!”
(It was at this point that this reviewer paused the review to pour herself a bourbon and ponder her life choices; particularly, her choice to screen this film.)
So, I know you’ve all been waiting for this…what is “Who’s Jenna” about? Well, nothing, but the closest it gets is a story about overcoming corporate corruption. There is way more finance talk than the typical viewer of a sex comedy wants to hear and the bulk of the film is spent with Johnathan standing slack-jawed at all the shady business happening around him…and it’s goddamn offensive.
This film plays the shock up with: Sexist remarks. Racist digs (a lot of them). Gay panic. The worst drag show I’ve ever seen.
I found myself totally distracted by how blatantly offensive this film was trying to be. Not funny. Not clever. Not just an illustration of “Ooh, aren’t these baddies the baddest!” Just offensive and clumsy and boorish. I tried, for a little while, to reason that this was all to make our lead look even more heroic. But, to be honest, he was complicit, which made this offensive script even more unbearable. No redeeming moments or qualities whatsoever.
“Who’s Jenna” will be available through VOD on April 24th. I can’t say that I recommend it.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.