Credit: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF

When is a Hollywood story not just a Hollywood story? Russell Brown’s charming and tender Loren & Rose answers that riddle in the same way that all great films about the business do, with captivating performances and a theme — in this case, it’s the love between a director and his mentor — that transcends the context. 

Kelly Blatz plays Loren, a young director courting Rose, a famous actress played by Jacqueline Bisset. They meet at a quaint restaurant in Topanga for a meal that’s also an audition for Loren’s new film. As in the 1981 Louis Malle classic My Dinner with Andre, dialogue dominates what follows. Loren and Rose, it turns out, have a lot to talk about, and both are wonderful listeners. Unlike the earlier film, the meal is split into three distinct moments in time. The appetizer course occurs as the two get to know each other. The main course happens after they have worked together on a successful film, and dessert comes when things have changed again for both characters.

For Bisset, whose performance shines with the controlled brilliance of a true star, the movie represents the fulfillment of a career’s worth of yearning for more thoughtful and complex roles. She’s open about the frustrations and even the humiliations that haunt the life of a performer. Rose has lived an expansive life and has great stories to prove it. Bisset describes playing her as a discovery that means a great deal to her, saying, “I felt full. I was so happy to be saying Russell’s words, and I felt there was a great deal of truth to the story about the experience of being an actor over a long period — some of it good, some of it unpleasant.” 

Brown, who has a passion for Hollywood history and Los Angeles architecture, wrote the film to share the experiences he has had with some of his mentors. He said, “I’ve worked with a lot of amazing people, and when you’re in those rooms with them, there’s a certain kind of magic that happens when you are listening to their life stories. The movie started as an attempt to capture that feeling, to show what it feels like to be in the presence of somebody like that.” 

Bisset’s first impression of Brown was positive but still didn’t prepare her for the depth and intensity of the film’s script. “I thought he was charming,” she told me. “He was rather quiet and looked like he had question marks in his mind.” Later, after he gave her the screenplay for Loren & Rose, her opinion expanded. “I was just astonished by the script,” she said. “I had never played such a big character before.” 

Ultimately, Brown sees Loren & Rose as something that, while it comes out of the experience of filmmaking, addresses more than the inside story of what it’s like to be an actor or a director. Instead, he feels it is a tribute to the joy of participating in a powerful collaboration. “When you’re in sync with your collaborators, that’s like heaven. It’s like flying, and I think what Loren and Rose are doing in the film is flying together. They love each other and have the same worldview. It’s a reflection of that, and I have been lucky enough to have found that a few times.”

To learn more about Loren & Rose, which screened on March 3 and March 5, visit Russell Brown’s website. See and follow our daily SBIFF coverage at Don’t forget to catch our cover package on the festival here.

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