November 23, 2010
Avarice, murder, love and lunacy
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Lantos noted that a great deal of Richler is in the character of Barney Panofsky, who is given to behaving outrageously, as he does during his wedding to his second wife (Minnie Driver), depicted as a kind of “Jewish princess.”
“She’s well off, from a good family, and he certainly was an ambitious guy who just landed in this city after being in Europe as a young man. Then she gets him integrated into a kind of upscale Jewish community, so it was a marriage of convenience, and she’s also attractive. And then, bang! Right there, he meets the love of his life.
“Now, what most people would do in that circumstance is take notice and keep going, and move on, and not linger, and not do anything about it,” Lantos continued. “Barney Panofsky runs out of his wedding and chases this woman that he has just met onto a train. Now, it’s something I certainly would have fantasized about doing, and I think many do, but it’s something very few would actually attempt. That’s sort of the character that he is.”
The woman he chases, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), eventually becomes his third wife and the love of his life. However, seemingly because he can’t help himself, Barney manages to wreck his dream marriage.
“I think how we destroy the things that we love is an important theme in the movie,” mused director Richard Lewis. “This is a love story, as far as I’m concerned, and one of the themes that I was interested in conveying … is the idea that love comes in all shapes and sizes, and you never know when it’s going to hit you, and it’s thoroughly inappropriate, most of the time. And I think that the idea that when it happens, it happens, is something that I kind of believe in. That happened in my life, too, so I think that that’s a theme in the movie as well.”
“Little Fockers,” opening Dec. 22, is the third film in a series about Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller), a Jewish male nurse who marries Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), the daughter of an upper-echelon WASP couple, Jack and Dina Byrnes (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner). The first in the series, “Meet the Parents,” established the culture clash inherent in the blending of two families from very different backgrounds, with De Niro’s character, an ex-CIA agent, distrusting and intimidating his potential son-in-law.
The second installment, “Meet the Fockers,” had the WASP Byrnes family meeting Bernie and Roz Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand), the Jewish parents of the intended groom, in Florida. After a series of mishaps, De Niro’s character finally accepts the other family, and the young couple gets married.
In “Little Fockers,” Greg and Pam have been married 10 years and will be celebrating the birthday of their twins. When Greg takes a job with a drug company to bring in extra income, Jack once again begins to doubt his son-in-law’s worthiness.
The main character in our final recommendation is plagued with conflict about her own worthiness as a dancer.
“Black Swan,” in Los Angeles theaters Dec. 3, stars Israeli-born Natalie Portman as a young ballerina slowly driven mad in her quest for perfection after being cast in a ballet that presents her with agonizing physical, emotional and artistic challenges.
Portman plays Nina, a dancer with a New York ballet company, who is given the lead role in “Swan Lake,” replacing prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder). The part calls for a dancer who can project both the innocence and purity of the White Swan, an easy task for Nina, and the dark sensuality of the Black Swan, a quality that eludes her. In addition to the torture of trying to meet the demands of the role, Nina has to contend with a controlling mother (Barbara Hershey), whose own ambitions as a dancer were thwarted, and a new company member, a potential rival named Lily (Mila Kunis), who is the embodiment of the Black Swan. As she struggles to find the required darkness in her soul, Nina begins an emotional descent that may well destroy her.
The film is replete with dazzling dance sequences, and, at the same time, it embodies an atmosphere of genuine psychological terror.
Director Darren Aronofsky manages to create an ambience of sublime beauty while also conveying the arduousness of a ballet dancer’s life and work. He also puts the audience members inside Nina’s psyche, making it difficult to distinguish between the real and the unreal as Nina goes through a series of delusions.
Though there are no Jewish elements in the story, the production represents a collaboration of creative artists with Jewish roots, from Brooklyn-born Aronofsky to the four female stars: Portman was born in Jerusalem to an Israeli doctor and an American housewife, the latter currently Portman’s agent. Kunis comes from Kiev, USSR (now Ukraine), and is of Jewish parentage. Ryder, born Winona Horowitz to a Jewish father and Buddhist mother, has reportedly referred to herself as Jewish. Hershey was born Barbara Lynn Herzstein and is the daughter of a Jewish father and a Presbyterian mother of Irish descent.
Happy holiday movie-going!