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Keeping the Faith

Director:
Edward Norton

Writers:
Stuart Blumberg

Cast:
Ben Stiller – Rabbi Jake Schram
Edward Norton – Father Brian Finn
Jenna Elfman – Anna Riley
Anne Bancroft – Ruth Schram
Eli Wallach – Rabbi Ben Lewis
Ron Rifkin – Larry Friedman

Country:
USA

Language:
English

Release Date:
USA: 14 April 2000

Awards:
2000 Casting Society of America, USA – Best Casting for Feature Film (Comedy): Avy Kaufman (Nominated)

2000 Street Film Festival, Milan – Best Feature Film

2000 Tokyo International Film Festival – Best Screenplay: Stuart Blumberg; Tokyo Grand Prix (Nominated)

2001 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards – Favorite Actress (Comedy/Romance): Jenna Elfman (Nominated)

2001 Satellite Awards – Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical: Edward Norton (Nominated); Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical: Jenna Elfman (Nominated)

Ratings:
USA: PG-13
Australia: M
France: U
Germany: 6
Spain: T
Common Sense Media Rating: OK for kids 13+
IMDb: 6.5/10
Metacritic: 60/100
Netflix: 3.4/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 69% (Fresh)

So…stop me if you’ve heard it…this priest and this rabbi walk into a bar…or was it a rowboat?

Keeping the Faith is a 2000 movie that took the old romantic comedy love triangle and put a little spin on it. Jake (Ben Stiller) and Brian (Edward Norton) are lifelong friends who both decide to follow their faith’s calling and go into the ministry. Brian becomes a Catholic priest and Jake becomes a rabbi. Things seem to be going well for both of them as they establish their place in their congregations in New York City, until they get a call from an old friend.

When they were growing up, the coolest girl in the world was Anna Riley, the three of them were inseparable until the 8th grade when Anna’s family moved to California. Well, Anna is coming back to NYC for a few weeks and wants to see her old friends again. The problem is that Anna now looks like Jenna Elfman. I don’t know how you spell a tiger growl, so I’ll just say [insert tiger growl].

She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s funny. And this is a movie, so hilarity and complications ensue.

I’ve mentioned before that I appreciate it when movies, TV etc. address faith in our lives. The screenplay by Stuart Blumberg does a good job of exploring Brian and Jake’s faith journeys, Brian’s celibacy, and other issues in a humorous but respectful manner without sinking into what could have looked like a bad sitcom: “Edward Norton’s taken a vow of celibacy. Ben Stiller’s taken a vow of wackiness. Catch them this fall on Fox!”

A lot of scenes show how young and hip and cool Jake and Brian are; they wear leather jackets, do karaoke, and play basketball. Maybe young and hip spiritual leaders was a new concept for the movies, but to me they look like the pastors of every megachurch on Earth.

Edward Norton shot the movie ― so far his only film as a director ― mostly in New York, and it’s a bit of a love song to the city. A bit too much maybe. At one point one of the characters quotes this line:

“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”
― John Updike

Shut up, Updike! Clearly you’ve never been to Pickstown, South Dakota.

I am seriously so through with New Yorkers who think that New York is God’s gift to the rest of the world. I know, I’ve never been there, and when I do I’ll probably fall in love with it, but holy stinkmuffins you people need to get over yourselves.

It’s one thing when people who still live there pee in their pants when they talk about New York, but the worst are New Yorkers who have moved to LA and can’t shut up about how inferior LA is. When I was working at the dialysis clinic I overheard a patient (from NYC) telling a nurse (also from NYC) “most of these people would never make it in New York.” The nurse, of course, agreed. I so wanted to say to them, “Apparently that includes both of you, because you’re now in Pasadena!”

Whatev. I do get some hits from New York, so I’m sure the New Yorkers who read my blog aren’t like that. You guys are kewl!

It’s interesting how movies can be a bit like time travel, 2000 doesn’t seem like that long ago, but so much has changed. This movie was filmed a couple of years before 9/11, and the Twin Towers feature in the skyline. Anna is a big business executive, and a lot of jokes are made about how attached she is to her cell phone. Nowadays, everybody is. Jake jokes about how he downloads his sermons from www.hotgod.com. Sheesh, saying “www” is so zeroes.

I have a little trouble taking Ben Stiller seriously as a rabbi and a romantic lead. It may not be fair, but he’s done too many goofy parts and “Focker” movies.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

But it’s a good movie and I’m giving it a…

Tom Servo

Random Quote Whore Quote:

Keeping the Faith is a barricaded, spikiest, hellishness of a movie! Ben Stiller is coeternal!!!

9 thoughts on “Random Movie Review – Keeping the Faith

  1. Interesting fact. I know the real Anna Riley. Her name is Anna Ryan; and the screenwriter was in love with her. The story took some twists and turns after the film was made. I wish I could say they were all happy twists.

    • What??? You mean she’s not living happily ever after as a rabbi’s wife? Darn reality.
      Now I want to retrieve the DVD from Netflix and listen to the commentary track again.

    • Yeah, I definitely hear ya. There’s a lot of sticks in the mud and up the asses in churches today…but there are a lot of good people out there too just trying to live an examined life with some integrity AND a sense of humor. The commenter just before you, Susan Isaacs (Angry Conversations With God), is one of them.

  2. I liked the movie this makes me want to pick it up again. I enjoy the way people adapt to their situations, we humans can surprise ourselves. It takes courage and character to be outside the box. Love your review 😀

    • Thanks Raven!
      Hmmm…I must have a lot of courage and character then, because I’m so far out of the box I’ve forgotten where the box is 🙂

  3. Your method of describing the whole thing in this post is genuinely
    nice, all be capable of without difficulty know
    it, Thanks a lot.

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