Jewish Journal

Enter ‘Angry,’ Leave Laughing

by Naomi Pfefferman

Posted on Apr. 10, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Screenwriter David Dorfman specializes in dark comedies in which "one guy makes another's life a living hell," he said. Which is why Revolution Studio's Todd Garner hired him to write "Anger Management" -- the season's most anticipated comedy -- in 2001. "He told me about a friend sentenced to anger therapy for a barroom brawl," Dorfman said of the premise. "But he'd come out of sessions angrier than when he went in."

In the movie, Jewish nebbish Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) attends court-mandated therapy with an abrasive, Talmud-quoting shrink (Jack Nicholson). He's forced to sing "I Feel Pretty" and to hang with an "anger ally" (John Turturro) so volatile he imagines hearing anti-Semitic remarks in a bar. ("Are you Jewish?" Buznik asks him. "I could be," he retorts.)            

Bronx native Dorfman said he brings "a kind of New York Jewish paranoia" to his characters. But Sandler ("The Chanukah Song") signed on for a different reason.

"I immediately liked the title and knew I needed some in real life," he said in a statement. "Then I read it and I was laughing."

In 1998, the 30-something Dorfman lost his car, owed the IRS money and was taking the bus to work. Then his screenplay, "The Guest," sold for $500,000 and his career was off. 

Recently named one of Variety's "Ten Hottest Voices in Comedy," he said he's never been in anger management.

"But like Buznik, I've have had people drive me to the point of insanity," he said.

There was the alcoholic neighbor who called him a "New York Jew bastard" and the boss who reneged on a crucial raise. "I wanted to trash the place," Dorfman recalled. "Then you think of jail."

The writer was puzzled, rather than angry, with the Austrian critics who disliked the movie.

"I'm thinking, this is a film they should love, because it's a Jew being tortured for 90 minutes," he said.

"Anger Management" opens today in Los Angeles.

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