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April 20, 2000     Beverly Hills Weekly
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April 20, 2000
 

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art00 "Keeping the Faith": Comedy At Its Most Divine Edward Norton's directorial debut gives us a look at religion's place in life and love of the new millennium. By Ethan Bernard A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar... Ok, heard it. A priest and a rabbi compete for the afkx:*x)n of an eighth gr;@: zirifriend in a'fea - tur :gth romantic com- edy.  iow that's a new one. Write Stuart Blumberg took me hackneyed set-up of  i:)ke and turned it into a ptbing film that expi res new directions for  igion and the prob- lems aced when tradition EirdNoaand/nStr meets up with life in the 2 ! st century. Edward Norton, of "American History X" and "Fight Club", acts, directs, and produces this film about a love triangle of biblical proportions. Norton plays Father Brian Finn, a priest whose pop culture references pack the pews and shrewd confessional advice leads you to believe that this is not your father's church. Ben Stiller is Rabbi Jake Schram, sort of a Seinfeld who went to Yeshiva. He plays the bongo drums as he trains bar mitzvah students and admonishes them that, "it's okay to suck." His problem is that his congregation keeps playing matchmaker, but he can't find a girl to measure up to his standards, his mother (played impeccably by Anne Bancroft). This rabbi and priest team has been Iongtime inseparable, but they lament the loss of their eighth grade pal Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman) who moved away when they were only fourteen. When she comes back to New York on business romance blossoms in a way that may have some fundamentalists grumbling, but at least a few will be laughing.  The film does a good job of mixing pratfalls and one-liners, while still keeping a degree of emotional depth.  New York makes a perfect backdrop for the film: its cultural diversity, and frenetic pace matching the protagonists' attempt to make religion meaningful and amplifying the characters' romantic tribulations. Whether they are playing basketball in the park or walking against the Manhattan skyline at sunset, as in a Woody Allen film, New York is a silent character lending meaning just by being there. The film does a good job of mixing pratfalls and one-liners while still keep- ing a degree of emotional depth. A flaming Exl Norton quelling the fire with holy water versus Anne Bancroft giving a poignant description of her other son's marriage to a non-Jewish w9man. While the more religious of either faith may find a bone to pick with religious accuracy, the only complaint of the layman is the film's two hour length. The film has a few rough edges, but overall Norton does a good job of keeping the film moving. At first appearing a good premise that might not be sustainable, the movie goes beyond its storyline boundaries to give a message of tolerance and accep- tance while still maintaining a tie to one's roots. "Keeping the Faith" marks a bright start of what should be a long career in the director's chair for Norton, as well as continued success in front of the camera, lie c3"00;00a 00a00adeh 3ZO./ZS.99.2Z Do You Want to Work at The Beverly Hills Weekly? Gain experience in the news room Looking for an Editorial Intern Flexible hours Please fax resume to 310.887.0789 No calls please. People Assisting The Homeless PATH/Foundation House is a homeless empowerment agency, dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Volunteers Needed: Kitchen helpers Cook(s) for Saturday Night dinners Volunteers to help teach Recreational Activities volunteer 2346 Cotner Avenue (2 blks west of Sepulveda between Olympic & Pico) 8 a.m.-6p.m, weekdays Weekend dropoffs are okay too. 310-996-0034 14 Beverly Hills Weekly f