The Good: Acting, Characters, Humor
The Bad: Moments of plot predictability
The Basics: A romantic comedy that's intelligent, character filled and actually funny, Keeping The Faith is worth seeing.
There are a lot of hot, young actors and actresses out there that I'm supposed to think are great, being that I'm in the right demographic for them. One such actor is Ben Stiller and I enjoyed his sketch comedy, interviews with him, you name it, up until I started watching his films. Mystery Men flopped, I found Meet The Parents to be horribly unfunny; I was wishing I had only seen him on Freaks And Geeks (reviewed here!).
Keeping The Faith, finally proved to me that Stiller can perform for more than fifteen minutes. In this film, he's funny, he is interesting and he's acting with the intelligence I've seen displayed in his interviews.
Keeping The Faith is an amusing romantic comedy about two friends from way back who grow up to be a priest and a rabbi. I figured, "I've heard that before." The nice thing is, the film acknowledges its own joke; the film opens with Father Brian Finn talking to a bartender and he is given the opportunity to state that the film is more than just a protracted "There's a priest, a rabbi and a blonde" joke. The magic is that they pull it off. Keeping The Faith is more than an attempt to take a twenty second joke and stretch it out over an hour and a half.
The plot is simple: rabbi Jake Schram and priest Brian Finn are best friends. They grew up together with Anna, who moved away in 8th grade and the two boys continued growing together and they remained best friends through their religious training. Now, as adults working together in New York with their successful careers, they are surprised by Anna's return to their life.
Anna challenges both men: causing Finn to have feelings he's not used to having and relieving Jake of the endless fix-ups at his synagogue by all of the Jewish mothers who are trying to get the rabbi to marry their daughters. The film then focuses on the character aspects as Finn and Jake deal with the Anna component of their friendship, Finn struggles with his feelings for Anna, Jake struggles with his congregation over actually having a relationship and everyone tries to figure out what their next move will be.
The strength of the film is in the characters. Far too often in romantic comedies, the characters are nonexistent. They are present only to be players in a love story. In Keeping The Faith, that's not the case. Jake collects Heroes of the Torah trading cards, Anna is almost always connected to her headset, Finn keeps in shape. Simply put, there is some depth to each of the characters. Jake has difficulty relating to his family and that time is spent illustrating that fleshes out his character so well; it makes it believable that someone would fall in love with him. It's quite wonderful that way!
Edward Norton, who plays Finn, is excellent. His facial expressions alone at crucial junctures in the plot are perfect. He delivers and considering that it is directed and produced by him as well, it's very much his baby. It works. Jenna Elfman scores well with her acting as well. She plays Anna with grace and dignity, seriously and it's nice to see her tackle a role so different from her television part. As for Ben Stiller? I'm not sure how much he can act; he tends to play characters that involve him using a great deal of his own personal charm and magnetism. Here it's minimized and while it appears briefly early in the film, far more utilized is his intelligence and articulated charisma. So yes, here he's acting and he fits the role of Jake well.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the film for me actually - for a change - involved the hype. All of the previews that I saw when Keeping The Faith reveal scenes that are in the first ten minutes. It's nice to see a film where most everything is new, nothing is ruined by a preview which gave away a scene too late in the film. Have faith; Keeping The Faith is worth watching.
For other romantic comedies, please check out my reviews of:
Going The Distance
For other movie reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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