Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Price Above Rubies

When a young woman's stubborn, questioning spirit comes into conflict with a traditional ultra-Orthodox life, it is a meeting of the proverbial irresistable force and immovable object. A Price Above Rubies (1998) explores territory that one might have thought well traveled in The Chosen (1981) except that where the latter movie examines the narrow life of a young man in a situation of relative privilege, this film looks at a young woman who married such a man.

The film mixes flashbacks and magical realism so that one of the Jewish seniors with whom I watched it asked, "Was she crazy?" and generated quite a nice discussion. The consensus was that maybe she was, maybe she wasn't-- or perhaps such a situation would have driven anyone crazy. I do not want to spoil any of the surprises in the film, so I can't say more than that.

The film is not flattering to the fictional ultra-Orthodox community it portrays. It shows a religious community that includes saints and sinners, and in at least one notable case, sinners who are also predators. I think that it is best to remember that is a Hollywood film, and it exploits the picturesque dress and customs while going for the shock value of sin amongst the saints. If you want to learn about ultra-Orthodox American Jews, go watch a documentary.

Renee Zellweger seems an unlikely choice for the role of Sonia, but she plays it with a believable accent and spot-on body language. As a portrait of an independent and wounded young woman who struggles to find her way with integrity, I give this film an enthusiastic "thumbs up!"


At 11:38 AM, Blogger Melinda said...

I saw this film and just loved it... agree with your assessment!


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