Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Is This Film Kosher?

A controversy may already be brewing over the soon-to-be-released film Keeping Up With the Steins, a comedy which centers on the planning of an extravagant Bar Mitzvah. More deeply spiritual members of the Jewish faith are condemning the film for showing what they call "stereotypical, self-hating, cultural Jews." Directed by Scott Marshall (son of famous Italian -- not Jewish, as sometimes thought -- actor/director Gary Marshall -- who also stars in the film), Keeping Up With the Steins shows the obscene level to which some non practicing Jewish people (particularly those with more money) will go in throwing a Bar Mitzvah. While this may be offensive to the more spiritual members of the Jewish faith, it also happens to be true. But Jewish people have, by no means, cornered the market on this sort of extravagance. Similarly wealthy (and often Italian) Catholics would also think nothing of spending $800 on a Communion dress for an 8-year-old girl receiving her First Holy Communion, or renting out a wedding-sized catering hall to celebrate the event. In both cases, the humility associated with the ceremonies go out the window. Having had a fair amount of personal experience with the type of Jewish family portrayed in the film, I can vouch for the authenticity. Cultural Jews often want the pomp and circumstance of celebrations with none of the spirituality that goes with it. Just as so-called "A&P Catholics" only show up at church on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday for ashes and palms. It will be interesting to see it the religious Jewish community continues a strong opposition to the film or, if the cultural Jewish faction -- which the film portrays -- will enjoy laughing at itself and embrace it.

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