Keeping the Faith: Is it a Jewish film?

A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar on St. Patrick’s Day….

Yes, it sounds like the beginning of too many jokes. But in this case it’s the opening scene of a movie, Keeping the Faith. As a romcom, it’s not my type of film — so I was a little surprised that I ended up liking it so much.

What did I like about it? First, it’s just very New York. You really feel that you’re there in Manhattan. Second, it’s very Jewish — except when it isn’t. If you’re not familiar with this movie, it’s about a priest and a rabbi who were lifelong friends, going back to middle school when this girl that they both liked saved them from a bully. The boys, obviously, were Catholic and Jewish, and the girl was Catholic — not that that mattered when they were 12, but of course it eventually mattered as adults. No spoilers here, but you need to know that the girl’s family moves away, and they all grow to be adults, becoming (as I said in my opening sentence) a priest and a rabbi respectively, and the girl becomes a high-powered executive. There’s the premise. For more details, I can’t say it any better than the blurb written by this year’s Atlanta Jewish Film Festival:

Edward Norton, Ben Stiller, and Jenna Elfman co-star in this sweet-natured spiritual comedy about an unusual romantic triangle between a rabbi and priest who fall for the same woman. Friends since childhood, both Brian (Norton) and Jake (Stiller) have become servants of God, each innovating ways to fill their sanctuaries with worshippers. Their lives are thrown a curveball with the return of Anna (Elfman), who has grown into a high-­powered workaholic beauty. Both men find themselves enchanted, sparking rivalry and personal dilemmas. A stellar supporting cast includes Anne Bancroft, Milos Forman, Ron Rifkin, and Eli Wallach. Norton’s directorial debut is a fresh and comical date movie, as well as a valentine to New York’s religious and cultural diversity.

Nothing in this description tells you that the movie was made 20 years ago, but it was. And it’s still fresh.


Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV