Film review of The Rebound

My review of the film The Rebound was published in the Australian Jewish News on April 1, 2010, and has just been put online.  Click here to see the online version on the Jewish News website.  I reprint the review below:

Directed and written by Bart Freundlich

Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Justin Bartha, Art Garfunkle & Joanna Gleason

The new movie “The Rebound” has slipped – not exactly bounded – into Australian cinemas, and adds to the ever-growing filmography of American Jewish guys going out with non-Jewish women.  This one, however, has a twist:  the main theme is “inter-generational” dating, as the young Jewish hero – Aram Finklestein (played by Jewish actor Justin Bartha, from “The Hangover”) – is an uncommitted 25 year-old, who meets and falls in love with the 40 year-old Sandy (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a separated suburban mother with two exceedingly cute and adorable kids.  Both Aram and Sandy are on the “the rebound” – Aram from his disastrous early marriage to a stunning French woman who used him to get her Green Card (U.S. residency) and Sandy from her philandering husband (played by Jewish actor Sam Robards, the son of Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards).

When Sandy rents the flat above the Manhattan coffee shop where Aram works, soon he is baby-sitting for her, then becomes the full-time nanny, and then the full-time relationship:  despite the disapproval of his “very Jewish” Upper West Side parents, capably played by Jewish actor/entertainers Joanna Gleason and Art Garfunkle.  Gleason has one of those familiar faces that you recall but can’t quite place:  she has played Jewish roles in a number of Woody Allen films and had a major recurring role in “The West Wing” television series.  And yes, it’s that Art Garfunkle, the other half of “Simon and”, in his biggest film role since “Carnal Knowledge” in 1971.

Jewish writer/director Bart Freundlich is a direct filmic descendant from Woody Allen, whose New York Jewish romantic comedies covered so much territory that younger Jewish film-makers have a hard time making up stories that have not been covered already.  At least this one is new:  Allen’s fascination was invariably for younger (rather than older) women.  But like Allen, Freundlich places his film firmly in the secular, intellectual New York Jewish milieu that he lives in with his (non-Jewish) actress wife Julianne Moore, who is ten years older than him.   Autobiographical?  Surely it must be.  In many ways, “The Rebound” is a follow-up to Freundlich’s pleasant 2006 romantic comedy “Trust the Man” (which starred both Moore and Bartha).

Freundlich does a capable job of directing his (virtually all-Jewish) cast, and has some truly great scenes:  Sandy’s extraordinary date with a chiropractor is certainly one of the funniest movie scenes this year.  Sandy’s meeting with Aram – when he plays the “perp” (perpetrator), wrapped up in a padded suit – at a women’s self-defence class had the potential to become a classic, but missed somehow.

“The Rebound” is like that:  a great cast with not quite enough to do to make this film fully emotionally satisfying.  Zeta-Jones is thoroughly watchable on-screen, an almost too-perfect beauty; how can anyone have such features without any flaws?  Bartha is an actor “on the road” to stardom:  watch for his next roles in “Hangover Two” and in the soon-to-be-released “Holy Rollers”, about Israeli drug syndicates.  His innocent Aram combines boyish enthusiasm with the not-yet adult responsibility and gives the role more depth than Freundlich may have written.  Despite its flaws, I found the film’s final fifteen minutes (which I won’t reveal; no plot spoilers here) to be unusually rewarding.  They cover some five years of Aram’s life in particular and almost wordlessly tell a story of maturation and development.  If the rest of the film had reached that level of insight and story-telling, “The Rebound” might have become a mini-classic of twentysomething emotional growth.

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