Esther Kahn

"OK"

Esther Kahn Review


They say that even the most accomplished actor still has something to prove, that no matter how much adoration he might receive, there is always some sacrosanct person or place where the performer turns to face critical judgment. Esther Kahn, directed by Arnaud Desplechin, is the story of a young actress who battles those harsh demons in order to achieve a sense of accomplishment.

Raised in tenement housing in late-19th century London and forced to live the suppressed life of a sweatshop laborer in a Jewish slum, Esther Kahn (Summer Phoenix) uses the theater as an escape from the harsh realities of everyday life. As a child, her brother and sisters find her awkward because of her abnormal silence and infatuation with the low-budget Yiddish performances put on by the local neighborhood troupes. As the family outcast, she internalizes all the loathing she receives from her mother (Frances Barber) and family, which leads to a desperate search for her place in the world.

Esther's stubbornness and conviction eventually lead her to the stage where she seems to have a knack for totally immersing herself into each character. But she seems to be missing a few key ingredients preventing her from landing that coveted leading role. Auspiciously, she encounters the prodigious yet tainted Nathan (Ian Holm), an aging outcast of an actor whom she reluctantly accepts as her mentor. Nathan, however, can only teach her so much about the nuances of stage performance: Esther needs to experience for herself life's turbulent emotions in order to effectively render them on stage. Thus, her ascetic upbringing as a silent outcast must be overcome.

She then immerses herself into a dark and surprisingly cinematic London in search of self-expression. At this point the film is at its best as Esther faces a triage of challenges: from her quest for love, to her growth from Nathan's tutelage, and ultimately the pursuit of self-fulfillment; she shows extraordinary determination.

Phoenix ably conveys the complexity of Esther's character. In one shockingly intense scene she wildly pummels her face because she is unable to cope with heartbreak and the pressure of performing. However, the nature of Esther's societal ailments are often ambiguous -- leading one to question whether or not she has genuine mental problems or whether her unique talents are the result of pure genius unable to conform. In comparison, Holm flawlessly pulls off his role as mentor, proving invaluable to the development of Esther's character along with strengthening Summer Phoenix's performance.

To its detriment, the film's blaring score is reminiscent of '70s classroom fodder a la The Red Balloon and often clashes with the somber tone. Plus, at two hours and 25 minutes, Esther's hardships begin to feel like a grueling marathon stuck on those last few miles with no end in sight.

On the other hand, if you are an actor who can relate to the search for inner peace by dramatically depicting the lives of others onstage, then Esther's story is a compelling quest for truth. It teaches a valuable lesson of persistence and how difficult answering to that beast from within can be.

And Esther danced the night away.



Esther Kahn

Facts and Figures

Run time: 142 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 4th October 2000

Distributed by: Le Studio Canal Plus

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 12

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , , Grégoire Sorlat

Starring: as Esther Kahn, as Nathan Quellen

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.