Magic By Norton, Stiller and Elfman
Reviewer | 08/09/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Edward Norton stars along with Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman in "Keeping the Faith," a comedy which also marks Norton's directorial debut. This is a funny, sometimes hilarious film, that succeeds in maintaining the humor even while dealing in a straightforward and very serious manner with the subject of faith and, ultimately, its effect on the relationship of three people. Brian (Norton), Jake (Stiller) and Anna (Elfman) are an inseparable trio in childhood, until the eighth grade when Anna's family moves from New York City to California. The boys continue on as best friends but lose contact with Anna until sixteen years later, when she unexpectedly shows up back in New York and calls Brian. Anna is now a successful businesswoman; Brian is a priest, Jake a rabbi. They manage to pick up right where they had left off all those years ago, but of course things have changed for all of them. Soon Brian and Jake find themselves falling in love with Anna. Brian's vocation, however, prevents him from pursuing a relationship, and Jake, though single and able to marry, encounters an obstacle in the fact that Anna is not Jewish. All of which is a moot point, of course, until Anna also falls in love with one of them; and we suddenly find ourselves in the realm of Ingmar Bergman. At this point, many comedies sink into that nether world of genre identity-crises: Is this really a comedy, or drama? Happily, Norton keeps things moving right along with a steady hand. Instead of turning dark, the story goes on to explore what a real commitment to faith means in terms of the sacrifice and choices that go along with it, and Norton manages to pull off a magician's trick of keeping it light and thought-provoking at the same time, no easy accomplishment when dealing with such sensitive issues as love and faith within the framework of comedy. The charismatic Norton and the likable Stiller put real life into the characters of Brian and Jake, and Elfman brings a quirky, accessibility to Anna that makes you want to root for all of them. These are good people you quickly come to care about; you laugh along with them and at their situation, while at the same time you're hoping they all make the right decisions so we can all live happily ever after. The fine supporting cast includes Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach and Milos Forman. "Keeping the Faith" is a movie that will make you laugh and smile, but it will also give you much to think about for a long time afterwards."
Romantic Triangle Comedy That WORKS!
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 10/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Keeping the Faith' is one of the funniest, smartest, warmest comedies of the last several years, and marks a wonderful directorial debut for costar Edward Norton. It works on many levels; as a loving look at relationships, on the common ground Judaism and Catholicism shares in compassion towards people, in embracing love, no matter what obstacles might arise...and it does all this while respecting different religions, which makes this a very unique and special film! Norton and Ben Stiller play lifelong friends, who, as children, meet a fabulous, funny girl who they bond with. After she moves away, the two grow up, becoming a priest and a rabbi...then the girl returns, as a successful businesswoman, and the friendship is renewed...until romance enters the picture! Each character is unique and likeable; Norton is a sweet, funny klutz, endearing in his awkwardness; Stiller is compassionate and quick-witted, dealing with his Temple's matchmaking efforts with wry humor; Jenna Elfman (who has NEVER been lovelier onscreen) is both wise and vulnerable, and totally believable as a person both guys would fall in love with. Major issues are addressed in the film (a Priest's vow of celibacy, interfaith marriages, religious discrimination), and are dealt with and resolved in such a positive, loving manner that you wonder why these issues ever BECOME problems! All this reflects well on Edward Norton, who shows remarkable sensitivity as both a cowriter and director! The supporting cast is marvelous; Anne Bancroft is fabulous as Stiller's mother, Eli Wallach and Ron Rifkin, as a rabbi and synagogue leader, respectively, are equally good; director Milos Forman is terrific as Father Havel, Norton's mentor. Two other supporting players should be singled out, as well; Lisa Edelstein has a GREAT slapstick scene with Stiller, as the Jewish 'Date from Hell', and Brian George is hilarious as a "Sikh/Christian with Jewish inlaws" bartender that Norton confides in. There are a LOT of great one-liners, inspired scenes, and a resolution that is both believable and satisfying. The DVD edition offers even MORE to love; Norton's very funny and wise commentary about the making of the film, deleted scenes, and a VERY funny gag reel are special features you CAN'T find anywhere else! This film is a MUST for your collection, a 'feel-good' movie that you can enjoy, again and again! I HIGHLY recommend it!"
Hit and miss comedy
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 06/09/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Edward Norton's directorial debut, "Keeping the Faith" dishes out one of those plots that only Hollywood - in its desperation to bring a fresh approach to a stale genre - would ever dare to come up with. In this love triangle with a "twist," Ben Stiller, Edward Norton and Jenna Elfman portray a trio of best friends who grew up together on the streets of New York City, but who were separated in adolescence when Anna moved away with her family to California. The unique aspect of this particular triumvirate is that, while Anna has been away on the west coast forging a lucrative career in business for herself, Brian has become a priest and Jake has become a rabbi. Now all three are in their '30 and Anna has decided to pay her "buddies" a visit - a move that sets the story up for all the interpersonal and emotional complications that are practically de rigueur for a "Jules and Jim" scenario of this sort. Given the rather incredible nature of the premise, "Keeping the Faith" still manages to generate some interest with the uniqueness of its religious context. Like most American movies that attempt to deal with issues of spirituality and religion, "Keeping the Faith" spends most of its time batting away at the edges of the topic rather than getting right in there and really opening up the subject for us. Indeed, very few commercial American films are even willing to tackle or explore in any great depth the role that religion and spirituality play in the lives of people, so we should at least give "Keeping the Faith" credit for trying. Of course, much of the tension in the film is supposed to be generated by the fact that one point of this triangle (the priest, Brian) has pulled himself out of the equation - or has he? But if the truth be told, the love triangle, which takes center stage in the film, is actually far less interesting than the issues of faith, of tradition vs. relevance, of spiritual commitment on the part of both clergy and laypeople that the film at least sporadically addresses. Almost inevitably, with a film this lightweight in tone, "Keeping the Faith" seems from time to time to be afflicted with a severe case of the "cutes," particularly when it succumbs to the "golly gee, people of the cloth are just regular folk like the rest of us" syndrome that seems somehow unavoidable in films like this. Thus, despite their clerical status, Jake and Brian cuss, drink alcohol, play basketball, sing karaoke etc. just to show us what regular guys they are. We've seen this sort of religious iconoclasm used for comic effect so many times before that it has long since lost the ability to amuse.Where the film does excel, though, is in its exploration of the issue (faced by many churches and synagogues, no doubt) of whether tradition alone can sustain a viable congregation or whether unorthodox methods may be needed to reach and retain a more "entertainment-oriented" generation of worshippers. Many times in the film, I found myself wishing that the story would concentrate less on the rigmarole surrounding the love triangle itself and more on issues like these. However, even within the confines of the romantic nature of the story, the filmmakers do manage to touch, if only superficially, on the issues of Catholic priest celibacy and interfaith marriages. Stiller, Norton and Elfman give generally naturalistic performances, though none of them are forced to stretch their talents too much in these roles. Interestingly, famed director Milos Forman shows up as a wise old priest who sets Brian straight on the thorny issue of celibacy. "Keeping The Faith" probably would have been a better film had it dealt with the same issues in a less frivolous and trivial context than is provided for them here. Still, we should, I suppose, be thankful that any American film is willing to acknowledge religion and spirituality as part of our lives at all. "Keeping the Faith" is, therefore, well worth checking out."
Romantic, hip, and funny as hell!
Jason Schwab | Los Angeles, CA USA | 10/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a movie about a priest named Brian Finn (Edward Norton) and a rabbi named Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) in New York City. They're young, popular, down to earth, and are totally committed to their respective religions. Before that, when they were kids, there was this girl--a totally cool chick just like them, down to earth and decent. The three of them were like peas and carrots together but she had to move away, upsetting at first, but ultimately making Brian and Jake best friends by themselves. They're adults now, and she comes back to NYC to visit for business, and things get VERY interesting. If you've ever had the whole "is [s]he Jewish?" dilemna, you'll love this movie. Even if you haven't, this romantic comedy breaks all cliches and tells a most unique story. Ben Stiller and Edward Norton, if you're reading this, keep doing these kinds of movies! Pop some popcorn, invite your boyfriend or girlfriend over, and put on this movie! You'll love it."