A priest walks into a bar...and, wait, stop me if you've heard this one.
Ok, that's a pretty bad way to start this review, but it's how Keeping
the Faith starts. In the film, a young Irish priest, named Brian Finn (Edward
Norton), walks into his local bar -- drunk out of his mind -- and begins
to sob over a picture he's carrying with him. The picture shows two boys
and a girl. The bartender believes that the picture shows Finn's children
and that he's crying because his wife left him. Finn begins to explain
that the picture shows him and his friends, Jake Schram and Anna Riley,
in the 8th grade and that his story is much more complicated than any scenario
the bartender can come up with.
the Faith (2000)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, and
The story he begins to tell
is of his friendship with Jake (Ben Stiller) and Anna (Jenna Elfman)
and the fact that, as kids, the three of them were
inseparable. Anna's parents caused that to change when they moved to California
and taking Anna with them. The two boys became closer friends and even
began pursuing their respective faiths as a career. Finn, a Catholic, became
a priest and Schram, a Jew, became a rabbi. The two were still inseparable,
sometimes referred to others as "The God Squad." However, the
three friends are reunited when Brian Finn receives a call from Anna, who
says she's coming to New York to work as a business consultant. Both Jake
and Brian will fall in love with her the instant they see her again, providing
an interesting take on the love triangle theme.
A romantic comedy requires a romance along with the comedy and Keeping
the Faith serves up both in spades. Edward Norton, who also directed, is
about as fine as can be in this film, displaying wit and charm that few
actors of his generation possess. The fact that he directed is simply the
icing on the cake. Ben Stiller, who's been in some great films and some
duds lately, does fine as Jake. Jenna Elfman, of TV's Dharma and Greg,
is wonderful as the love interest. I've always liked her TV persona, but
her film work has been of a lesser caliber until this performance. It's
not hard to believe that two men could fall in love with her as they do
in this movie.
The film's script, written by Stuart Blumberg, perfectly captures the
nuances of friendship as well as tackling a few heavier issues with remarkable
skill. I enjoyed little cultural references that were inserted into conversations
and situations without seeming forced.
So, what's wrong with Keeping
the Faith? Well, a few things, actually.
None of them are serious, but they're a little bothersome. First, the film
makes the character of Brian Finn more likeable than Jake Schram, but Schram
plays a larger role in the plot than Finn. There's also a minor character
that makes such a splash when he appears that you may find yourself more
interested in spending more time with him than the film allows you. The
film's also a bit longer than it really needs to be. It clocks in at 130
minutes, when it could have easily been wrapped up in 90 or so.
Overall, though, Keeping
the Faith is a very entertaining movie that's
well worth watching, especially for the performance of Edward Norton.
Blumberg, who wrote Keeping the Faith, was Edward Norton's roommate at
Yale. He can also be seen as the car salesman in 1999's Fight Club, which
also starred Norton. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)