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Set in the 40s in Brooklyn, New York, the story concerns a mild-mannered joe, Newman, played by the always-engaging William Macy who works as a human resources officer in a nameless firm. Single, he lives alone with his mother; his lifestyle and mannerisms brand him as something between convention-abiding milquetoast and lonely recluse. There's an ever-present edge to Newman--whenever he smiles, you can't tell if he's trying desperately to feel inside what should accompany the corners of his mouth turning up, or if he is truly pained making the effort.
Into his life comes Gertrude Hart, played brilliantly by Laura Dern. This is very likely one of her best roles; she's flawless here. Sassy, fun-loving, but simultaneously caught up in the ruthless rule of the mob, she both fights and gives into Newman, letting us know that love can happen, but that social convention can easily sway how it goes.
The vicious anti-Semitism on display here is typified well by none other than Meat Loaf--perfectly cast in Fight Club, and here just as effective. As Newman's next door neighbor, he effortlessly vacillates between sham innocence and the crude, fearful hostility of "them"--Jews, blacks, whoever--that those of his ilk live to destroy.Read more ›
Back at home his bigoted neighbors notice his new appearance, and he begins to invite the same vandalism that has been plaguing the the new owner of the neighborhood corner store, a Jew. He also is unable to find work (on account of his appearance), until he meets the same woman he passed over, Gertrude (Laura Dern), who hires him to work for her Jewish employer.
The story continues portraying a selectively forgotten era of American history, and manages to weave a fable of significant importance without ever feeling preachy. I would suggest this film to anyone, as it portrays its subject as well as any movie I have seen to date.
It took a vision such as Neil Slavin to get this into a film and he chose well his actor for the role of Newman: William H Macy, who is perhaps, one of the most underrated actors around, but one actor that always delivers with an integrity and honesty that makes him shine and make this film as enjoyable as it was reading the Miller text years ago.
Laura Dern and David Paymer excel in their roles, as well as the rest of the cast, but the biggest surprise was Meat Loaf in a very demanding role as the bigotted neighbor. This actor is just unbelievable and we can only hope he is given new opportunities to excel and shine on his own.
The cinematography evokes the New York and Brooklyn of the 40s and brings to mind some paintings by Edward Hopper, especially in two sequences: The first when Newman is looking for a job and leaves a building and he's seen walking down a desolated Manhattan street. The other one is the night sequence where the bullies are going to attack Newman, who is seen walking with his wife and long dark shadows behind them keep following until the confrontation.
This is a film worth seeing and recommending to people that enjoy Arthur Miller's work and the work of a good film director with the intelligence of Neil Slavin.
The story is scary and easily transports from 1945 to any time you want to look at.
The film skillfully supports this feeling of not being in a specific historical time by non-realistic settings for the suburban neighborhood. You never make the mistake to think that you are in a real place, it is always like a stage. You might just be in Brave New World.
The film is strictly didactic with its obvious lessons for viewers, but rather than resenting that, I developed an admiration for the script. I have not read the novel, but I would assume, that the adaptation is very much in the right spirit.
Actors are right on as well, not only Macy and Dern, but also Meat Loaf as neigborhood leader of the nazis.
Frankly speaking, I expected not to like the film very much, but I was wrong.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
William Macy and Laura Dern were excellent in their roles. Although the plot was all about prejudicial misconceptions many people held about Jews and other ethnicities during WWII,... Read morePublished 3 months ago by kmhopkins5
To anyone who has faced the bigotry of right-wing morons, especially the kind of dunces who jump to conclusions about total strangers because it permits them to engage in bullying,... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Malleus
William H.Macy, is great in this, hard to believe in all the types of racism, eye opening, Im sure to the people who have suffered this, that was a stupid comment, and for that I... Read morePublished 9 months ago by newshower
If this had been a Disney production, the corner merchant Mr. Finkleman would have had a daughter who helped save the life of some child on the same street, and then the parents of... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Clifton T. Moberg
I paid to view this movie, as I admire Mr. Macy but the movie was just not what I expected. Disappointing story line.Published on May 4, 2013 by Linda M