Keeping The Faith

This is an interesting comedy film about a Priest (Ed Norton) and a Rabbi (Ben Stiller) who are best friends. They both fall for the same girl, a long lost childhood friend who has become a high powered businesswoman, Anna Riley (Jenna Elfman). The film sits comfortably in the romantic comedy genre and has some really good laughs in it but also a tendency towards the usual Hollywood cheesiness when it comes to romance.

The main trio were friends as kids until Anna´s parents moved away and they lost contact. Years later Norton has become a Priest and Stiller is a Rabbi, they are still best friends and both work in New York. Anna comes to town on business and when they all meet up both the guys start to develop strong feelings for her. Stiller is supposed to get married in order to be promoted within the synagogue, but he must marry a Jewish girl. Norton is supposed to be completely celibate but is struggling with his vows, and who can blame him.

This film is also Norton´s directorial debut and he does a competent job without ever approaching originality. However his acting is excellent and the skill he possesses is obvious when you compare this part to either his role in Fight Club or as a reformed Neo-Nazi in American History X. He is believable as a priest and has some great comic timing, the scene where he set himself on fire by accident was hilarious. The film is also narrated in part by Norton who seems to have a natural talent for narration, it was also used to great effect in Fight Club.

Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman and Ed Norton

This is all familiar territory for Stiller as he reprises his role as the master of the embarrassing situation. We are treated to a few good laughs as he is forced on a number of dates by members of his synagogue. Many of the old women are alarmingly keen to marry off their daughters to him and some even send resumes. Stiller is excellent at looking awkward and has proven himself a quality comedy actor.

Jenna Elfman was good as the love interest, she looked gorgeous and fun to be around, however I thought she was a bit soppy and young to be a high powered businesswoman. She acted perfectly well but in some ways just provided the straight woman for the other two.

Although the film is about a priest and a rabbi there is suprisingly little theology in it and no religious argument. In fact the whole thing was very pro multi-faith co-operation and may have tried too hard to be politically correct (young female head of a mega corporation is rare in real life). However this is a romantic comedy and as such only has positive things to say about the world.

The romance between Stiller and Elfman was annoying, that familiar old lack of any real problem, refusal to talk and then cheesy unrealistic romantic bits. I won´t go into detail because it would spoil the film although I would be insulting your intelligence to suggest that it isn´t obvious what is going to happen by the time it does. That sounded suspiciously like gibberish, nevermind.

If you enjoy romantic comedies then I think you will love this film, alot of the humour isn´t that far away from There´s Something About Mary but in Keeping The Faith it is more subtle. The peripheral characters are all good as well, the wise old rabbi, the wise old priest, the karoake salesman and the multi faith barman that Norton tells the whole tale to are all funny and help to add depth and a bit of realism.

Although the direction was fairly conventional there are some lovely shots of New York, I thought the grimy Big Apple looked really attractive in this film. The music wasn´t so great, just the usual cheesy and vaguely romantic stuff for the most part.

The perfect comedy film for a lazy night in with your partner. Well-written, well-acted and with a few good laughs this film only falls down for me on the romantic cheesiness level which was too high throughout and reached the nauseous towards the end.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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