A Beautiful "Day-in-the-life" Character Study
A. Eby | Texas | 06/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Judy Berlin" is one of those tiny films you stumble upon and from which you come away with a whole new respect for acting, the power of good films and...hell...humanity! Everything about this film is small, and all the more powerful for its smallness: the setting, the plot, the time that passes, even the actors. This was made before Edie Falco (Judy) gained fame on "The Sopranos", so she doesn't project the over-confidence many stars do in little "vanity" projects. No, everyone here is real and pitch-perfect, especially the wonderful actress Madeline Kahn in her final role, filmed during her losing fight against ovarian cancer. If you have patience for films you won't find at your local movie theatre, and you appreciate real acting, "Judy Berlin" won't disappoint."
Excellent character study
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 12/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Eric Mendelsohn's Judy Berlin is, aside from being a Sundance Film Festival award winner, an intelligently observed portrayal of middle class foibles. Set in Babylon, Long Island (not New Jersey as the Description indicates), it views a day in the life of several of its residents as a midday solar eclipse plunges them into an unnatural darkness.As a mismatched couple, Bob Dishy and Madeline Kahn are superb. He is an elementary school principal; she is his chatty dependent wife who needs, needs, needs. This was, very sadly, Kahn's last film role--she died of cancer shortly after the film finished shooting. She captures this character to a tee. You watch her and realize nobody else could have performed this role. Dishy, normally a comic actor, here gives a touching performance as a man lost in a half childlike state, as is his wife, although in a subtly different way.In fact, many of the characters are associated with the elementary school. This is Mendelsohn's clever way of aligning their inability to express mature emotionality with their daily routine. Julie Kavner and Anne Meara, in small roles, work in the school nurse's office. Barbara Barrie is a teacher in the school whose somewhat supercilious attitude gives way, ultimately, to an attraction to her principal, who is having a hard time relating to his wife.The title character is well played by Edie Falco, currently of The Sopranos, a struggling actress planning to make it big in Hollywood. She has a casual relationship with her mother, the schoolteacher played by Barbara Barrie--so much so that she calls her mother by her first name. On the day she is scheduled to leave for California, she runs into David, son of the Golds (Kahn and Dishy). David is a struggling filmmaker with his own agenda that excludes much of life. The two of them hit it off, but Judy has to leave....What makes this film so resonant and memorable is the writer-director's mature emotional intelligence. He understands that the dreams we all have of how we want to live our lives are almost never fully realized in reality. The eclipse is a potent metaphor for the gap between what we dream of and what we live. And, he says, it is our lack of understanding how to realistically achieve what we want that plunges us into this gap. The only sticking point in the film is David's (the filmmaker's) overly self-conscious remarks to Judy about filmmaking itself, which do tend to bog things down somewhat. But aside from that, this is a wonderful, beautiful film with heart and intelligence. Note that the DVD includes Mendelsohn's excellent short (23 minute) film Through an Open Window with a great performance by Anne Meara as an aging woman who feels trapped in her house by the presence of a bird that's flown inside on a summer day. She leaves, only to be confronted by others who make her realize just how trapped she really is...Highly recommended."
We Love "Day In Life" Character Driven Film
carol irvin | United States | 05/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hubby and I both love slice of life filmmaking so giving us a totally character driven film involving only one day in these people's lives, minimal plot and minimal conclusions doesn't trouble us at all. I know many viewers, however, who require more of a plot than this movie has and/or a higher level of tension. The soundtrack is primarily harpsicord music and we enjoyed that too but if you like state of the art avant garde soundtracks, this also isn't for you. This is a very quiet, art house type film with excellent actors. I loved the chance to see the late Madeline Kahn in one last role. She is absolutely luminous here as the wife of the town's principal whose 30 year old son has moved back home and whose husband may be leaving her for another woman. That other woman's daughter and the Kahn character's son are the other couple in the film. Edie Falco plays the title role as that daughter and gets to show a whole other side of her acting talent outside of her role on the "Sopranos." She is leaving for California that night to try to be an actress there. David Gold, the 30 year old, has just returned from California, having failed in the movie business. After seeing Judy Berlin act at a local theme park it is obvious she is never going to make it as an actress. David is at first discouraging of her going and then starts swinging the other way as he catches hold of her dream. Another character is an old woman who used to teach in the school and is now coming down with Alzheimer's but it is just beginning to dawn on her friends and neighbors that she is failing. This is all set against a total eclipse which darkens the town for the day. The film is shot on such glorious black and white that at times I wondered if I were looking at infrared film, known for its otherworldly blacks and whites. You will probably either love this or hate it with not much inbetween."