Judy Berlin

"OK"

Judy Berlin Review


A sardonic yet adoring, antic allegory about a menagerie of neurotic Long Island oddballs following and/or abandoning their dreams, "Judy Berlin" is a strange little film that got left behind like a red-headed step child at last year's Sundance Film Festival.

Its creator Eric Mendelsohn won Best Director in Park City, but went home without a distribution deal -- which is the undeclared movie meat market's unspoken parting gift for award winners.

Then along came indie house Shooting Gallery, which has made this movie the flagship release for a touring series of six pictures the distributor feels went unfairly unnoticed during their festival tours.

Featuring a nearly unrecognizable, pre-"Sopranos" Edie Falco (mob wife Carmela on the hit HBO show) in the title role of a loquacious, geeky thirtysomthing with impractical dreams of movie stardom, "Berlin" is a kind of Woody Allen-meets-"American Beauty"-lite fable about suburban foibles and frustrations.

The catalyst for the story is the ignominious return of failed filmmaker David Gold (Aaron Harnick) to Babylon, the momentumless bedroom community where he grew up. On the day of an unnaturally long solar eclipse that gives the town an even dormant aura than usual, this sullen, rut-stuck fellow with grated nerves bumps into former classmate Judy on the street. Feeling otherwise dejected and ego-trampled, he latches on to her for the afternoon when she confesses having a crush on him in high school.

Although the film has a beginner feel to it, writer-director Mendelsohn adroitly creates a certain timelessness by shooting in black and white and making savvy technical use of his time-suspending daytime darkness with simple, eerie, single-source lighting. But mostly he exploits the day-for-night gimmick in getting his characters to let their hair down and wringing awkward moments for subtle comedy.

Stubbornly optimistic Judy, who plans the leave that same day for Hollywood, is clearly not starlet material, what with her braces, her accent and her WalMart clerk makeup. She's a terrible actress to boot, if any indications can be taken from her bogus enthusiasm for her day job as a pilgrim wife at a Colonial history tourist trap.

With his own futile experiences in L.A. fresh on his mind, melancholy David belittles her dreams even as he grasps pathetically at what he hopes is a romantic spark between them.

Mendelsohn's comedy is quaint, obsessive and ironic, and while the movie lacks real direction, it never wants for laughs. But most of that quaint irony comes from parallel stories that relate to David, Judy and each other only slightly, through family connections and the inexplicable eclipse.

Madeline Kahn (in her last role before succumbing to ovarian cancer) is delectably silly as David's overbearing Jewish mother, who is the weirdest housewife on her tree-lined drive and takes her housekeeper out for a "moon walk" when dusk falls at noon.

Barbara Barrie (Brooke Shields' mom on "Sudden Susan") is incredibly moving as Judy's estranged mother, a grade school teacher who has lost her joie de vivre. The eclipse awakens her dormant desire for the school principal (Bob Dishy).

Also great are Bette Benritze as a retired teacher with Alzheimer's disease and Julie Kavner (the voice of Marge on "The Simpsons") in a caustic cameo as the school's lunch lady.

Measured by it's sneak-attack laughs, "Judy Berlin" is a modest success. The movie is a gas as you watch it -- even the crustier critics at the preview screening laughed out loud and clapped a couple times -- but the effect doesn't linger any longer than it takes the credits to roll.



Judy Berlin

Facts and Figures

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 6th October 1999

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Sue Berlin, as Judy Berlin, as Alice Gold, as Arthur Gold, as Maddie, Marcus Giamatti as Eddie Dillon, as Lisa, as Marie, as Bea, as Carol, as Mr. V, as Tour Guide

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

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.