Film: Holy Rollers


Cast includes: Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland), Justin Bartha (Failure to Launch), Danny Abeckaser (Gardener of Eden), Ari Granor (Mystic River)
Director: Kevin Asch (Characters)
Genre: Historic based drama/comedy (2010)

In brief: It may be 1998, but you’d never know it by looking at life in this Hasidic Jewish community in Crown Heights Brooklyn. Mendel Gold wants what many fathers dream of for their sons… that he should become a rabbi. But 20-year-old Sam has finally gotten up the nerve to tell Tata (Papa) he’s not so sure about becoming a rabbi. Maybe he can work with Tata in the fabric store. The gelt (money) is better, isn’t it? But why is money so important? Tata wants to know. As it turns out, 20-year-old Sam is about to get married, and at long last, he’s going to meet his intended bride. But when she senses Sam’s lack of meaningful direction, the match is called off.

It’s a real blow to Sam, and it leaves him conflicted about what’s important in life. He’s not doing well in rabbinical school, and if he’s being honest, he’d have to admit that he’s not really doing that well working with Tata in the store. Tata never seems to value Sam’s efforts and has no interest in teaching Sam the business. So it’s no surprise that when he notices a neighborhood friend who’s in the “medical business” wearing a Rolex, he’s impressed. Yosef tells Sam that they’re looking for good people, and he can help Sam get a job in the medical business. They’ll fly him to Europe, and all Sam has to do is bring back medicine. Sam has no idea what it’s all about, but soon figures out that it might not be legal. Tata also figures out that Sam is involved in something that isn’t right. “Is the money so important?” he wants to know. Sam answers, “They said I did a good job.” And indeed he does… and with each turn, Sam becomes involved even deeper in the “medical business.”

Based on true events, Holy Rollers gives us a look inside a world most of us aren’t too familiar with. Unlike mafia dramas… or mafia comedies, for that matter… with similar themes, Holy Rollers doesn’t over dramatize the events. It’s easy to imagine, for example, how the culture clash between a sheltered Hasidic Jew and the world of drug smuggling could be developed for comedic effect, but this movie doesn’t do that. Another thing it doesn’t do is explain all the various rituals in the daily lives of the characters. But that said, we understand everything we need to know for following the story, and the cultural details are quite interesting. At rabbinical school, they consider the question of why God had to look for Adam and Eve when they were hiding in the Garden of Eden. After all, didn’t God already know where they were? The question isn’t whether God could find Adam and Eve. It’s about where they (and we) are in relationship to Hashem (God). Either we’re moving closer to Hashem, or we’re move farther away. Sam may think he's left rabbinical school behind, but he finds himself asking this very question.

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

Popped kernels for taking us to a place few of us know and for not overhyping the story

Popcorn Profile

Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience  
Distribution: Art house   
Mood:  Somber  
Tempo: In no hurry    
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism  
Character Development: Engaging  
Language: True to life 
Social Significance: Informative  

 

Comments welcome

Join our email list

holy

holy

holy

holy

holy

holy

holy

holy

 

 

©2013, Leslie Sisman | Design, website and content by Leslie Sisman