Projections - Movie Reviews

Keeping the Faith Keeping the Faith

One of the best actors on screen today, Edward Norton (Primal Fear, American History X) takes the director's role in Keeping the Faith.  With the sprit of romantic comedies of the past, Norton propels his Father Brian Finn, his best friend Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) and Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman) through a reuniting crisis which results in both men comprehending that they have been in love with Anna since seventh grade.

Initially both are seen leading their congregations toward more involvement by using new methods to draw a crowd into their houses of worship.  Rabbi Jake punches up his music by inviting members of a black gospel church to sing the traditional rather stayed music.  Some react with dismay but more and more come to participate.  Early on this begins to look like a male Sister Act but it quickly becomes a comedy built around romance that involves the two best friends and Anna.

We get to laugh from the beginning when Father Brian wacks a parishioner in the face with an incense dispenser and then catches his own vestments on fire.  Rabbi Jake faints during his first ceremonial circumcision.  Father Brian has it easier than his friend - he can not marry; but every  mother in the Jewish community wants to give her daughter a shot a marrying the young Rabbi.  His dates tend to be pushy, some more so than their mothers.  One very attractive date, Rachel Rose (Rena Sofer), is an ABC anchor who Jake is interested in until she faints away not realizing that there are nuts in pecan pie.

The heart of the film comes forward when Anna moves to New York and looks up her two old best friends.  She looks great and Jake tells her "God was showing off when he made you;" how could any woman ignore that complement.  The potential relationship with each of the men is problematic; Anna is not Jewish which creates difficulties for Jake and of course priests don't marry.

While the comedy continues and Anna watches a sexual affair in the office building next to hers, Father Brian speaks with his pastor (Milos Forman) about loving a woman.  He learns that the pastor came close to leaving the priesthood for love at one time and he points out that he falls in love regularly but like Father Brian he has a different calling.  It's a pleasant honest discussion.  Rabbi Lewis (Eli Wallach) isn't worried but many of the elders in the Jewish community can't understand Jake's very close relationship with Anna especially when there are so many single women waiting for a chance to be Mrs. Rabbi.

Like most films Keeping the Faith slows down about three quarters of the way through but this warm, funny and uplifting film is delightful to watch and these two imperfect men of God may even encourage us to spend more time in churches and synagogues.

Keeping the Faith

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