Chew's Reviews - Disobedience

By Gary Chew | May 11, 2018 | 

Longtime acquaintances re-assembling for a funeral after many years of separation is a familiar starting point for numerous movies. I first thought of THE BIG CHILL as such a film began for me last night. But this more recent picture immediately made an abrupt divergence from Lawrence Kasdin's star-studded hit of the early Eighties.

DISOBEDIENCE surely is not a hit even though two A-list actresses carry it: Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. On the other hand, the dissonances set forth in this story, which come from the first novel by Naomi Alderman, are important to our times.

Traditional, conservative religious belief in conflict with open homosexuality would seem to give a script considerable steam. Yet, DISOBEDIENCE gives a much stronger commitment to austerity of life than for one lived in the breeze of personal freedom.

How could anything get tense, you ask?  .....  Yes, I figured you might already know.

Drear is the mode and the mood, although the story has a contemporary setting. Both Rachels, as they are naturally attractive, present as really plain, especially Esti. I've not seen these two accomplished actors look less alluring. But that's OK. The picture plays “real.” All interiors are shot in unremarkable settings … and London has a chill on.

I could almost “smell” the orthodoxy of those characters in the film who's roles are submerged in the need to “toe the line of God.” Weisz plays an early-thirties, non-practicing Orthodox Jew named Ronit Krushka. A single, professional photographer living in New York City, she's just returned to the UK to attend religious events surrounding the passing of her estranged father. He was a powerful London rabbi. McAdams plays Esti Kuperman, a slightly younger woman. She and Ronit were romantically involved before Ronit left for America. For clarity, the script implies that Ronit is bi-sexual and Esti, although now since married to Dovid Kuperman, is homosexual. Not coincidentally, Dovid, played by Alessandro Nivola, is in line to step into Ronit's father's position as the local rabbi. Thickening the plot a bit, Dovid and Ronit are cousins.

The scent of the traditional becomes stifling. How can people who are stringently religious be oh so covertly rude and cold in such a straightforward manner when the flame of romantic love re-ignites between two mature females: Ronit and Esti? Or, you could say, “In front of God and everybody.”

Another bothersome thing for me is that DISOBEDIENCE doesn't know how to quit, so to speak. It seems that there are at least three “endings” for the film, directed by Santiago-born Sebastián Lelio, a leading figure in post-dictatorship Chilean cinema. Lelio's FANTASTIC WOMAN won big recently at the Oscars. Best Foreign Language Film that would be.

DISOBEDIENCE is not an easy watch. The film is about what really is … not the routine escape machinations of weekly releases of “you know what and who” Weisz is one of the producers. Besides talent and looks … Rachel's got class. I don't remember her in a picture that sucks. A film I well recall in which she holds but a secondary role has slipped from sight. Wow, it also starred that fab duo of Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. Weisz plays Caine's rather sweet but spoiled daughter in it: Pablo Sorrentino's 2015 film called YOUTH. Finding that so fine movie on cable is a work in futility.  Yet, I recommend you see YOUTH. It will make you feel young, even if you're only 17.   DISOBEDIENCE not so much. 

2018 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.
Chew's Reviews: Movies For Thought
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