Judy Berlin (2000)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Americana, Ensemble Film  |   Release Date - Feb 25, 2000 (USA)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Mannered, unassuming, and ultimately moving, writer-director Eric Mendelsohn's feature debut imbues a comic, bittersweet American character study with an almost European sense of weight and gravity. For Mendelsohn, the lives of dissatisfied Long Islanders can be downright mystical in their mundaneness -- a theory echoed not only by the dreamlike cinematography of Jeffrey Seckendorf, but also by the characters themselves. Over the course of a lengthy eclipse (subtly rendered through clever lighting tricks), the film reveals the tenuous bonds between its various families, and our hero, David Gold (Aaron Harnick), sheds his initial, off-putting solipsism and embraces his suburban roots. It's the performers who make this transformation so satisfying: Barbara Barrie is the perfect model of an uptight schoolmarm; as her daughter, Edie Falco brings genuine compassion to a role which could have devolved into grotesque parody; and in her final film role, Madeline Kahn lends the proceedings a funny, infectious sense of wonder as David's loopy mom. Much of this territory has been mined by other independent filmmakers -- Hal Hartley, most memorably -- but by finding poetry in the most innocuous of places, Mendelsohn makes the material his own.