14 January 2005 | lionheartlev
Intriguing Personal Drama Set in Orthodox/American Jewish Culture
A carefully and compellingly rendered drama of a contemporary woman's stirring discovery of self, "A Price Above Rubies" is set in the context of a Hasidic Jewish/American community. Beautifully photographed, this film's acting sparkles -- and renders a reasonably accurate portrait of an easily caricatured community.
In a role played well before her current celebrity (circa Jerry Maguire), Renee Zellweger establishes herself as a talent of unlimited possibilities. That she doesn't "look Jewish" (by the stereotype) does not make her less convincing....
The film's feminist perspective is gracefully realized without belittling all guys -- which greatly enhances the film's power! (And lowers my blood pressure!) While compelling in the early going, the plot becomes a bit overly complex. But the film remains very well worth watching throughout. Production design is exceptional! Those Orthodox Jewish critics who are angered by this film's portrayal of Jewish Orthodoxy might have us believe that the world of Orthodoxy is monolithically benign. It is not. ...
Traditional thought and practice -- orthodoxy in many settings -- has its beauties and strengths, and -- like most things human-- it has its dark, shadow side as well. I've personally experienced both the light and the dark, and know they both exist. "A Price Above Rubies" depicts the delicate balance gone awry.
For a very different, also wonderful film which depicts both light and shadow sides of American Jewish traditionalism, but less critical of Orthodoxy, try "The Chosen" (1982) (adapted from Chaim Potok's book), with Robby Benson (quite good in this film, to my surprise), Rod Steiger and Maximillian Schell. For me "The Chosen" is a "ten", and among my all-time top 10 films!