Thursday, September 22, 2005

The secret life of the clergy

Ed Norton, as always, a prime pick. I tend to choose films by directors and not actors - Chris Nolan and Baz Luhrmann being directors whose complete (full-length film) works have been consumed, with Steven Spielberg and Cameron Crowe high on the list too. Ed Norton's an exception. Primal Fear, Fight Club and The 25th Hour later, Ed Norton's a guy whose films you watch, simply because he's chosen them.

Keeping the Faith was similarly recommended. Picking up the DVD, I realized that he's directed the movie as well. This gets better.

The premise is simple. Two guys. One girl. They've been friends forever. She left when they were in eighth grade and went to the other coast. Now she's back. She's beautiful, smart, the kind they both fall for.So, a love triangle, right?

Not completely. He's a priest. Catholic at that. His best friend's a Rabbi. She's not Jewish - complications all around. He wants to tell her. His friend already has. She likes him (the Rabbi, that is) as well. Problem: He cannot see her and continue his relationship with his mother or the Synagogue. Ah, the tangled webs we weave.

For me, the film was a revelation in some ways. It showed a couple of clergymen of two of America's most prominent religions as regular guys. They wear shades, play basketball, and yes, occasionally swear too. Seeing them out of their robes was a surprise by itself. (I don't know, imagining our batt-ru in a leather jacket doesn't quite gel).

They falter, as all humans do, and find the faith (in themselves and those around them) to carry on. The film is reasonably well written, offering all three - Ed Norton (the priest), Ben Stiller (the Rabbi) and Jenna Elfman enough to do. Ed Norton as always lives the role, something he did frighteningly well in Primal Fear. Ben Stiller is subtler than some of his more recent roles, showing he's capable of better, and Dharma fits the role to a T.

The whole love triangle thing gets a tad awkward at times, but nothing to kill the movie completely. Some laughs, some tears, a drunk scene, a showdown, a punch and all's well with the world again. I admit, I probably liked the film more than I should have and I'm rating it better than it deserves to be rated.

Everyone thinks his story is the one with a twist.

Edit: Fixed a typo


Ramanand said...

Same here - I'm a big Norton fan too and do exactly as you mentioned - watch films with him in. I have seen Keeping the Faith, and it's interesting that Norton (his more "acclaimed" performances having come in heavier roles) chose to start off with this. Perhaps he was seeking to make a point. A "cute" premise and nothing too heavy. I liked it too.

Couple of other things: Norton ended up directing parts of American History X (after the earlier director moved out after some disagreements) - all this IIRC. I'm not sure if that was before Keeping the Faith.

Second: Dunno if you noticed, but the senior rabbi (I think I have the right character) is played by milos forman (of "one flew over the cuckoo's nest" and "amadeus").

we're keeping the faith in Norton.

Ajay said...

The senior priest was Milos Forman - saw that in the credits. The special features had a filmography that helped with his name since it had seemed familiar earlier. He directed Norton in 'People vs. Larry Flynt' as well.

Another bit of trivia you may have missed (dare I say it :0) - Ben Stiller's mother in the film is Anne Bancroft, she of the celebrated-in-song Mrs. Robinson fame.

American History X is on my hold list at the library - I am in queue, and I should get it in about 6-8 weeks. It was. before KTF, as the IMDB page sayeth.

Ramanand said...

I knew Anne Bancroft :-), but actually didn't know Norton was in Larry Flynt! so you win :-)