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KEEPING THE FAITH

SYNOPSIS:
Jake, Brian and Anna go to the same school at age 13 and form a close friendship which is broken up when Anna's family moves away from New York. Jake (Ben Stiller) grows up to be a Rabbi, Brian (Edward Norton) a Catholic priest and Anna (Jenna Elfman) a successful corporate strategist. When Anna returns to New York as a stunning young woman, their reunion is exciting, but romance soon blooms to complicate matters, confronting each with a new view of themselves - and threatens the deep friendships.

"Edward Norton is one of my favourite actors - but he hasn't become a favourite director with this well meaning, hard-trying and enjoyable but misconceived frolic. It's a tough assignment to tackle as your first feature a screenplay inn the romantic comedy genre that would test a master. Norton lets the jelly-like concept wobble about all over the two hours, failing to find the right tone as the story develops from buddy movie with a multi-religious setting to a love triangle that is as about as fresh as a supermarket trolley. Not only is the screenplay far too long winded, it is far too loose and lacking in dramatic tension until the very end. Somehow, with all the experienced producers on the project, nobody got tough enough with the script. There are redeeming features, though, including some fine dialogue, humourous scenes and funny lines, terrific performances and excellent New York settings. Jenna Elfman shows she can out-Paltrow Gwyneth, both in looks and talent, equally convincing at the light end as at the dramatic. Stiller and Norton are great buddies on different sides of the clerical divide, and the Jew v Gentile material is inoffensive. Perhaps that's another weakness, thoughÖthe film has no hard edges, neither in the central story nor in its subplots, such as they are. Damn likeable though you are, Ed, I can't rave about Keeping the Faith - but keep trying."
Andrew L. Urban

"At first, this story of a priest, a rabbi and their childhood friend sounds like a bad bar room joke. But in his debut as a director, Edward Norton soon shows that this is much more about emotions - love, friendship and, yes, faith - than religions. Certainly, the characters are informed by their religion, but itís not an issue the film takes up. He brings quite a light touch to the tale, mostly (although not entirely) eschewing the kind of manipulative set-pieces that mark the romantic comedy genre. And true to its mission, the script by Stuart Blumberg captures some wonderful romantic and comic moments. Perhaps at times it is a little too obvious (a recreation of the famous race scene from Jules et Jim, for example, gives away the filmís intentions early on) and it definitely goes on too long; but generally Keeping the Faith works. Itís helped immensely by a strong cast. While the credits give top billing to Norton and Ben Stiller, itís Jenna Elfman who holds the film together. She brings both a believable toughness and a touching vulnerability to Anna. Stiller is also solid as Jake and has some wonderful lines. Although I found Stiller a little too funky to accept as a rabbi, Norton is more credible as a young priest. Thereís also Anne Bancroft in a great supporting role - and watch out for acclaimed director Milos Forman in front of the camera. Although itís not exactly cutting-edge stuff, Keeping the Faith is a solid first film from Norton; a touching and effective date movie."
David Edwards

"For those unsure inter-religious love rules, a rabbi can date and marry so long as itís a nice Jewish girl. Itís a sin for Catholic priests to even think about it. But for this heathen male viewer, the best thing about Keeping the Faith is the stunningly beautiful Jenna Elfman (aka TVís Dharma). Thine eyes could hardly stray from hers, her angelic face, stylish hair, impeccable fashion sense, her cheeky sense of humour. Elfman was an obvious choice to play a sexy career girl who sways a couple of godly young men, and she carries it off superbly. She also shakes the kooky Dharma role to shine as a high-powered, no-nonsense, fun loving businesswoman. You gotta love a gal who wears her cell-phone on her inner thigh and sets it to vibrate! Her character has it all, so methinks female viewers will likewise warm to her radiance. Norton and Stiller are just fine as the dashing religious hunks, the new-age Men in Robes, the hip new god squad. Nortonís Yale pal Stuart Blumberg balances snappy wise cracking shtick with thoughtful sermons that remind us of the bigger picture. Itís all a rich tapestry, as they say. What Keeping the Faith lacks is a shrewd editor, and I found myself yawning towards the end, as if in Sunday Mass myself. A half-hour less would generate a more positive review. We could do without much of Stillerís caricatured mama yenta (Anne Bancroft), and a dragged out sub-plot of her exiled eldest son goes unresolved. More curious is the lack of chemistry between Stiller and Elfman. Their scenes are fun, but the scenes between Elfman and Norton really sizzle. Surely Norton would have been a better choice for love interest with Stiller trying to cut in. Perhaps (as the whispers go) Norton was being magnanimous in his roles as director, producer, and general driving force behind this (his?) vehicle, which he dedicates, by the way, to Robin Norton. Though sentimental and overly long, this is fresh fluffy stuff."
Shannon J Harvey

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

SOUNDTRACK Review.

KEEPING THE FAITH (M)
(US)

CAST: Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach, Milos Forman

DIRECTOR: Edward Norton

PRODUCER: Stuart Blumberg, Howard W. Koch Jnr., Edward Norton

SCRIPT: Stuart Blumberg

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anastas N. Michos

EDITOR: Malcolm Campbell

MUSIC: Elmer Bernstein

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wynn Thomas

RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 8, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: December 26, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

VIDEO SELLTHROUGH RELEASE: August 22, 2001







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