×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Keeping the Faith – Slick Show of ‘Faith’

A valentine to New York's racial, religious and cultural diversity, "Keeping the Faith," actor Edward Norton's well-shot feature directorial debut, is a schematically constructed romantic comedy about an unusual triangle: a rabbi and a priest who fall in love with the same woman. Pic benefits from a contempo texture and from pleasant performances by its central trio. Of the current cycle of romantic comedies (and practically every studio is releasing one this season) , "Keeping the Faith" is arguably the most accomplished --- strong word of mouth could turn it into a popular date movie for moviegoers in their 20s and 30s.

With:
Jake ..... Ben Stiller Brian ..... Edward Norton Anna ..... Jenna Elfman Ruth ..... Anne Bancroft Rabbi Lewis ..... Eli Wallach Larry Friedman ..... Ron Rifkin Father Havel ..... Milos Forman Bonnie Rose ..... Holland Taylor Ali Decker ..... Lisa Edelstein Rachel Rose ..... Rena Sofer Don ..... Ken Leung Indian Bartender ..... Brian George

A valentine to New York’s racial, religious and cultural diversity, “Keeping the Faith,” actor Edward Norton’s well-shot feature directorial debut, is a schematically constructed romantic comedy about an unusual triangle: a rabbi and a priest who fall in love with the same woman. Pic benefits from a contempo texture and from pleasant performances by its central trio. Of the current cycle of romantic comedies (and practically every studio is releasing one this season) , “Keeping the Faith” is arguably the most accomplished — strong word of mouth could turn it into a popular date movie for moviegoers in their 20s and 30s.

Verbose comedy is inspired by numerous love triangles, from “The Philadelphia Story” to “Broadcast News,” and by quintessential Big Apple movies by Woody Allen and Paul Mazursky, though it lacks those films’ wit, depth and star charisma. Ideological and commercial considerations march hand in hand in the touchy-feely script by Stuart Blumberg, Norton’s Yale pal and an investment banker before turning to filmmaking. Tensions between tradition and modernity, love and friendship, career and marriage are all too smoothly and easily resolved before the end credits.

The first act, which is too cutesy for its own good, unfolds in the mode of Woody Allen’s ’70s comedies. Narrated by Brian, it reconstructs the boisterously happy childhood of the protagonists as seventh-graders, until Anna moves out of the neighborhood, which breaks the hearts of Brian and Jake.

Story proper begins when the mature Anna (Jenna Elfman) unexpectedly calls Brian (Norton) to announce her arrival in New York, and he and Jake (Ben Stiller) rush to the airport to greet her. Brian has become a priest, Jake a rabbi and Anna a driven exec addicted to her cell phone. Script conveys the sense of ambitious, overconfident youngsters, all idealistically committed to their calling, who suddenly realize that something major is missing from their lives.

Initial hour chronicles how the trio conduct their work-dominated lives. A highly motivated perfectionist, Jake experiments with “unkosher” ways of rejuvenating the old religious practices by bringing a black gospel choir to his congregation and encouraging group meditation. He is a most eligible Upper West Side bachelor who goes on a series of dates, arranged by members of his temple who are anxious that he marry a Jewish girl. One of pic’s highlights is a date with a fit athlete, Ali (Lisa Edelstein), in a scene that draws on slapstick comedy.

Several blocks away from Jake’s temple is the Catholic church where Brian introduces his own innovations. A conscientious priest, he plays an active role in his community, demonstrating a good command of Spanish and empathy for its needy residents.

Brian and Jake’s solid friendship is threatened when Jake and Anna realize they are attracted to each other and engage in a wild affair without bothering to tell their best friend. When Anna falls harder for Jake than either of them anticipated, they find their well-ordered priorities thrown into disarray.

The audience is always one step ahead of the characters in this predictable yarn. But to pic’s credit, the central trio are portrayed as down-to-earth individuals. Further helping the none-too-snappy proceedings are the colorful milieu and, especially, the gallery of character actors.

Anne Bancroft brings authority to the role of Jake’s overly concerned (though not stereotypically domineering) mother, who’s alienated from her older son because she could never accept his gentile wife. Eli Wallach is cast as Rabbi Lewis, who functions as a peacemaker between the temple’s more traditional members and Jake’s unconventional methods. Holland Taylor commands as an elegant temple member, anxious for Jake to date her rising TV anchor daughter (Rena Sofer), and, in a custom-tailored part, helmer Milos Forman shows up as Father Havel, Brian’s compassionate boss, who confides that despite rules and restrictions, he too has fallen in love with several women in his life.

In its effort to convey a multicultural New York, pic panders to viewers with such secondary characters as an Indian bartender of mixed blood (Brian George), who offers a sympathetic ear to Brian’s cri de coeur, and an eccentric Asian salesman (Ken Leung), who at the yarn’s flippant ending performs karoake with Jake and Brian.

Of the central trio, the most commendable performance comes from Stiller, who carries the film. Elfman, of TV’s “Dharma & Greg,” is likable but lacks the wits and charisma that Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne or Katharine Hepburn would have brought to such a role. In the most demanding but often thankless and bland role , the gifted Norton acquits himself honorably.

Norton directs with assurance, and strong technical support from lenser Anastas Michos, production designer Wynn P. Thomas, costumer Michael Kaplan and composer Elmer Bernstein gives the film a polished veneer, making it a far more enjoyable experience than one would expect given its diagrammatic, overlong script.

Keeping the Faith - Slick Show of 'Faith'

Production: A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Touchstone Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment production. Produced by Howard Koch, Edward Norton, Stuart Blumberg. Executive producers, Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman. Directed by Edward Norton. Screenplay, Stuart Blumberg.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Anastas Michos; editor, Malcolm Campbell; music, Elmer Bernstein; production designer, Wynn P. Thomas; art director, Chris Shriver; set decorator, Leslie E. Rollins; costume designer, Michael Kaplan; sound (Dolby/SDDS), Tom Nelson; assistant director, Mark Cotone; casting, Avy Kaufman. Reviewed at the Beverly Connection, L.A., March 29, 2000. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 127 MIN.

With: Jake ..... Ben Stiller Brian ..... Edward Norton Anna ..... Jenna Elfman Ruth ..... Anne Bancroft Rabbi Lewis ..... Eli Wallach Larry Friedman ..... Ron Rifkin Father Havel ..... Milos Forman Bonnie Rose ..... Holland Taylor Ali Decker ..... Lisa Edelstein Rachel Rose ..... Rena Sofer Don ..... Ken Leung Indian Bartender ..... Brian George

More Film

  • First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring

    First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring ‘Captain America’s’ Sebastian Stan

    The first-look image from Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ “Monday,” starring Sebastian Stan – best known for “I, Tonya” and the “Captain America” movies – and “Colette’s” Denise Gough, has been released. Protagonist Pictures will launch international sales on the pic in Berlin. “Monday” follows the story of Mickey (Stan) and Chloe (Gough), two Americans in [...]

  • The Wedding

    Film Review: 'The Wedding'

    Two considerations need to exist side by side when discussing “The Wedding,” the debut feature of Egyptian-American multihyphenate Sam Abbas. One involves the film itself, a dull slice of Lower Manhattan mumblecore about a heterosexual New York couple fitfully planning their wedding until she discovers his gay dalliance. The other, getting the lion’s share of [...]

  • The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Whether you know a film buff who needs to upgrade their collection, or you just want to upgrade your movie nights at home, here are eight gifts that will cast your favorite flicks in a whole new light. 1. Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: The Criterion Collection More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: The [...]

  • Ansel Elgort The Great High School

    Film News Roundup: Ansel Elgort to Star in 'The Great High School Imposter'

    In today’s film news roundup, Ansel Elgort is going to high school, “Rockaway” gets a release, and “Suspiria” producer Bradley Fischer is honored. CASTING More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: The Farewell Flower' Ansel Elgort has come aboard to star in the drama “The Great High School Imposter” for Participant Media and [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Oscars: Film Academy Narrows the List of Contenders in Nine Categories

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced shortlists of semi-finalists in nine separate categories. From here, the organization’s separate respective branches will vote to determine nominees, which will be announced along with all other Oscar categories next month. This year marks the first year since 1979 that shortlists have been revealed in [...]

  • Watch Skylar Grey Reenact 'Aquaman' Kiss

    Watch Skylar Grey Reenact 'Aquaman' Kiss Scene With Fiance

    The melody from “Everything I Need,” the song Skylar Grey penned for “Aquaman” is used in the scene — spoiler alert — in which the titular hero (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) kiss while an epic battle rages on around them. Grey and her fiance Elliott Taylor reenacted the kiss in a somewhat similar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content