Academy Award(R)-nominated star Melanie Griffith (Best Actress nominee -- WORKING GIRL, 1988) turns in a winning performance as detective Emily Eden, a tough New York City cop forced to go undercover to solve a puzzling mu... more »rder. Her search for the truth takes her into a secret world of unwritten law and unspoken power, a world where the only way out is deeper in! Delivering edge-of-your-seat excitement that won't let you go, this action-packed thriller is sure to entertain you with its sizzling star power, electrifying story, and nonstop surprises!« less
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom | Minnesota, USA | 10/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"OK, so it's not the best film in terms of police procedurals -- if you are looking for a hard-core crime drama, this isn't it. This movie was a spin-off from "Witness," which took place in the Amish community, and, like "Witness," the real value of "Stranger" is in the multi-cultural details and dialogue. The murder mystery is just a formula plot for presenting an introduction to Hasidic culture. Viewed as such, the film can be a useful teaching tool, and that's why I've been recommending it on my website's Hasidism FAQ. I myself use it in social studies classes here in rural Minnesota, where most of the students have never met any Jews at all, let alone Hasidim. Now granted, there are some things in the film that are pure Hollywood, such as the little book referred to as "The Kabbalah" that reads like a sex manual. In real life, "kabbalah" is a collective term referring to Jewish mysticism. There is no one book called "The Kabbalah" any more than there is any one book called "The Zen." Although some kabbalstic texts do contain certain sexual imagery, the stuff that Ariel reads to Emily in the film is more like erotic love poetry. This serves a purpose in the story, but it's not Jewishly accurate, and for that, I'm docking it a star. On the other hand, the film does address some of the negative stereotypes about Hasidim, such as that ridiculous urban legend about the hole in the sheet. (NOT!) The real "kabbalah" of the film is in the message about finding one's soulmate. In the beginning of the film, Ariel reads a line from his kabbalah book: "God counts the tears of women." He has no idea what this means, it's just words. Later, at the end of the movie, Ariel's Hasidic bride-to-be quotes this same line back to him. She explains what it means, then says: "It's in the kabbalah." From this, we know that they are true soulmates, even though this is the first time they have met face-to-face. Emily (the detective) has also decided to wait for her true soulmate, which is what she tells Levine, who has been making passes at her throughout the film. But Emily has now grown in her understanding of relationships, and knows that fooling around with the Levines of the world is not love. There are some fine Hasidic scenes in the film, such as the Sabbath celebration, which shows both men's and a women's dance circles. Especially nice is the inclusion of a black couple at the Rebbe's table, presumably representing the Ethiopian Jews. The wedding scene is also well done. (Trivia: the music used for the wedding march is a Bobover Hasidic tune for "Lecha Dodi," the song which welcomes the Sabbath Bride of Friday night.) It is for these scenes that I find the film most useful in mlti-cultural education."
The film that changed my life
B. C. Diez | Asturias, Spain | 10/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some years ago I watched this film during a brus trip from Oviedo to Barcelona and it changed my life in a radical and most wonderful way. It discovered me the _bashert_ (= destiny, our other half) reality and Jewish life. It helped me to understand that meaning and warm are still available in the world. It introduce me the reality I have always dreamed to discover. So I have no words to express what this superb film did for me. If you want to discover something incredible about life, you should not miss it."
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom | 06/07/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend. I really enjoyed it. I thought the presentation of the Hasidic community was well done and respectful...and added to the story. Even though the critics panned it, I thought Melanie was fine. A good Friday night stay-at-home-with-a-tub-of-buttered-popcorn movie."
Casting boo boo by the name of Melanie Griffith
JustMe | Berkeley, CA | 07/23/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is an interesting film, especially for a cop flick, because it is more character-based than stereotypical Hollywood (car chases, gratuitous violence and shooting, big muscles, etc). And the role of Emily is a perfect multidimensional character-centered role. Not something you saw a lot of in mainstream Hollywood flicks prior to about the mid-1990's. However, Melanie Griffith is not appropriate for such a role. A fluffy comedic actor like Griffith only makes such a role appear melodramatic and overbearing. It's like using a meat cleaver to perform intricate brain surgery. This is not to say that Griffith is a bad actor (at least not for fluffy comedy), or that she couldn't master the subtlies of this type of acting some day; after all, look what Sylvester Stallone did in Cop Land (and if he can do it, anyone can do it). But she obviously failed in her role in this film.
The rest of the characters are also compellingly multidimensional, except, oddly enough, for who turns out to be the murderer.
I liked the film's positive multicultural flavor; what I also liked about the film was that it was made around the time that Hollywood started tayloring film's endings based on preferences of test audiences (around 1992), but this film's ending was obviously spared such a fate. The ending is cool, because it is realistic and shows Ariel's integrity--which I think was a graceful way to end things."
A Different World
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 01/04/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""A Stranger Among Us"
A Different World
I came across "A Stranger Among Us" when a friend from my temple gave it to me thinking it was the kind of movie I would enjoy. He was so right. I am glad I did not read any reviews first so my head was clear as I sat down to have a really enjoyable experience. This is a very low-key movie which centers around Hassidic Jews and the way that they live and it gave a really interesting look at a way of life that is foreign to most of us.. Sure, it has its fair share of kitsch but I managed to overlook it to watch an interesting, if not believable story. Melanie Griffith goes undercover in the Hassidic community of Brooklyn to solve a murder. Maybe she was not perfectly suited for the role but she was ok--no great shakes, just ok. She plays a cop who has a great deal of cynicism about the world in which she lives. Perhaps that is why it is interesting to see her enter the world of ultra-Orthodox Jews. She is gradually accepted into that world and gains respect for its customs and traditions. I found this to be especially moving. We watch her take part in meals, etc. and we begin to understand the cloistered world she enters where there are rules for everything. (Even though I was raised as an Orthodox Jew, there was a lot I learned here and I felt as if I smiled during the entire film). Of course there is sexual tension---the movie was made in 1992 and it was necessary in order to draw people to the theater. Here the tension is between Emily (Griffith), the cop and Talmudic student, Ariel (Eric Thal). The romantic element was enhanced by the idea of a person finding his "beshert" (soul mate). The movie is not just a mystery but has a subplot--moving toward a life that is real. While Emily enjoyed being a cop and having a good partner, something was missing from her life which was shallow and lonely. The Hassidic community offered her what was missing even though she was not allowed to have it. As she immerses herself into the Jewish community, her eyes are opened. The scene of the celebration of the Sabbath was particularly moving and beautifully done. It made me a bit homesick as I remembered the Sabbath celebrations I had been part of. The rabbi of the community treated her as a daughter--he understood what it meant for her to have to deal with evil on a daily basis. Ariel, the man to whom she is attracted represented integrity to her and this allowed her to find joy as a part of the community she had entered. A word about the actors--this was a vehicle for Griffith but there are two other stars here. The first is the Hassidic community which is beautifully and honestly portrayed (something we do not get to see usually because of their many laws). The other star and I would go so far as to say, the real star is Eric Thal, who played the adopted son of the rebbe. He stole the film as the man of compassion and understanding and gentility. He is quiet and humble and sensitive and courageous--a real rebbe to be and he will gloriously fill his father's shoes. A great movie this is not but I enjoyed every moment. And yes, Griffith solves the crime and learns a little something about love and life. "