Wookiee Hut Movie Reviews presents:
Keeping the Faith
Review by Diana

Starring: Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Eli Wallach, Ann Bancroft, Milos Forman

Director: Edward Norton

Rating: Star Destroyer: Imperial or Victory Class

It seems that if you grow up in New York City, you can't help but be somewhat streetwise. And who can be more streetwise than your local priest or rabbi, especially if they are young and cool? In addition, Jacob Schram (the radical young up-and-at-'em rabbi) and Brian Finn (the dorkiest stand up comedian and karaoke singer priest ever) have been best friends since even their parents can remember. They are comfortable with their vows, they have one another for friendship, their parents treat the boys like brothers, and life is looking sweet. A little wrinkle mars their happiness -- Jacob wants to be rabbi of the synogogue he is working for, but no single man has ever been appointed for the job. It's not that he's gay or that there is a shortage of hot, willing women after Jacob's Talmudic brains and body. He's just not really inspired by anyone. At least Brian doesn't need to worry about that, for his vows keep him forever wedded only to God. But it's workable, not a big deal.

Anyway, the coolest girl either man has ever known is a girl they call "Anna Banana." She beat up a big bully that was pounding on them when they were all in the 8th grade, and they became inseparable. Her family moved away during the summer to California and they never saw her again, but both men have thought of her often. Perhaps women just can't measure up to Anna.

So now she's a hotshot corporate execu-amazon type, and she's been assigned to oversee some acquisition or another in New York. She calls Brian and tells him she wants to get together with him and Jake. Jacob's first question, "Why did she call you and not me?" You can see where this story is headed. (Correct answer: "Finn comes before Schram." Ooops!)

It all happens. The two men, who love Anna in a pure, innocent manner, start to love her in ways impure and no less strong. Anna, as non-Jewish as Brian (as a 14 year old, she was going to get t-shirts printed with the slogan "Two Micks and a Yid"), falls for Jake the rabbi who has to get married to be appointed to the synogogue. And it'd better be to a Jewish girl say the elders, the retiring rabbi, and most of all, his mother. Brian has wet dreams about Anna and secretly swears he'll throw the priesthood all away for her and marry her. Jake hides his relationship with the girl of his dreams from everyone, including Brian, and steadfastly refuses to marry her, simply because she's not Jewish.

It's a sweet story. We've all done it, at least in our minds and hearts. We've fallen for best friends, housemates, co-workers, clients and other people we should have let stay in the "friend zone," though the wiser among us kept quiet and hoped the feelings would pass. For once you've crossed that threshhold and revealed your lust or love, the world changes forever.

But its not always a bad change, though usually painful to get through. It's a challenge for all three of them, as well as for Jake's mother, who's suffered the loss of one son to a Catholic girl already, and effectively disowned him. Jake and Anna's affair is going to affect more than just Brian, you see. People change, people grow. You can't control anything, even if you love those you would have change.

It's a classic date movie, but not quite a chick flick, for it primarily investigates the relationship between men who have chosen to lead lives in God's service. It's sort of a comedy, not quite a drama. I loved the scenes where the men crossed over into each other's religious worlds comfortably -- they'd hang out at the parish house of Brian's church and talk about picking up girls. Or Brian and Jake have a pivotal arguement in the temple's main hall and Brian screams, "Watch it, God will get pissed off if you lie in the Big Room!" Or something like that. I was laughing too hard to catch it exactly. Especially loved Brian seeking penance in sort of Eastern Irish pub.

As one who has grown up in a similar situation, I see the portrayals as accurate, tragic, but also uplifting. We can only hope our own mothers might be so understanding, even if they are yentas (gossips and know-it-alls). There is the right amount of goofiness and chutzpah (Yiddish word meaning 'nerve' as in "da noive of dat guy!") appropriate to growing up in the city, whether Jew or Gentile. Loved Eli Wallach as the senior rabbi and Milos Forman as the head priest of Brian's parish, and Ann Bancroft as Jake's mistakenly determined mother. Loved her hair, actually -- very Isard!

It's a fun movie, girls will love it, boys will laugh, and we'll all sigh audibly at the ending. Everyone gets the girl, you see! And the deleted scenes and outtakes are funny, too! Especially love watching young Jake flipping "Heros of the Torah" baseball-style bubblegum cards, murmuring, "have it, need it, have it, need it ..."

See it if you've ever fostered thoughts of impure love in your heart for someone who was really a friend. (That's all of us!) Get it on video or DVD, invite your friend whom you secretly adore, and get an emotional workout!