Simchas and Sorrows

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Genevieve Adams
Screenwriter: Genevieve Adams
Cast: Genevieve Adams, Thomas McDonell, Hari Nef, Luke Forbes
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC,
Opens: September 16, 2022

Forty percent of American Jews marry non-Jews. Why is this so? I would guess that since Jews live mostly in big cities and their suburbs, they come into contact with Christians. And since Jewish men have a reputation of being good husbands—they don’t drink, they don’t desert, they commit adultery only in moderation, they bring home (but do not eat) the bacon. You are not likely to catch Orthodox Jews picking non-Jewish partners, but since Reform and Conservative members of the tribe outnumber the Orthodox in America, everything’s up for grabs.

Genevieve Adams, who wrote, directed and stars in “Simchas and Sorrows” (simchas means joy, gladness), punctuates the problems of intermarriage on two levels. First, if a Jewish man’s family is Orthodox, mom and dad would be opposed to their son’s marrying outside the religion. Second, mom and dad, however, might (I say “might”) be OK if their boy’s fiancé were to convert to Judaism. In this case, the latter is happily true. But why would a non-Jewish wife be willing to convert? I dunno. Ask Ivanka Trump and Elizabeth Taylor.

This brings us to Agnes (Genevieve Adams) and her boyfriend Levi (Thomas McDonell). Levi has something to do with making Agnes pregnant. No problem—they plan on getting married once they get his dad’s approval, which will come if Agnes converts, though Mortimer (Chip Zien) later says he was misquoted and that he was not so restrictive after all. To please his parents, Mortimer and Made (Julie Halston), Levi demands—no requests—that his main squeeze become Jewish. Though Agnes went to Catholic school and wears a crucifix around her neck, she is an atheist, but is willing to give conversion a try since Rabbi Cohen (Hari Nef), probably a Reform, or progressive Jew, is laid back and more than willing to take on African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and atheists to her classes in Judaism.

Rabbi Cohen turns out to be the best thing about the movie, the highlight’s being a sermon in English, right up-to-date about the current level of antisemitism, the disaster of the Holocaust, and the Palestinian problem. Audience members might learn a few things, principally that Hitler hated Jews not because of their religion but because he considered them racially Jewish, concluding with his perverted Nazi mind that his adversaries were an inferior race. The rabbi is so inspiring that I would take her classes on the spot and convert. Uh, oh. I’m already Jewish. I’ll have to find some other course of study to inspire me.

“Simchas and Sorrows” is a down-to-earth dramedy. Authentic is probably the best word since the people seem real and not stereotypes, and there is little music in the soundtrack to divert attention from the dialogue. Or to put it another way, this is a low-budget picture, proving once again that sometimes keeping the finances low evokes better movies. Did Agnes convert? No spoilers here, but the conclusion results in love’s conquering all—as it almost never does.

114 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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