Judy Berlin

Judy Berlin is one of those strange movies that critics will heap adoration upon, while general audiences will most likely scratch their heads in wonder. It is not really a movie about anything more than they human character. The pacing is slow, the characters are annoying, but it is an interesting examination on how normal people interact with each other. Judy Berlin is the first movie for writer/director Eric Mendelsohn.

Everything focuses around a solar eclipse that lasts longer than expected in Babylon, New York. Judy Berlin (Edie Falco, Bullets Over Broadway, HBO's The Sopranos) is a wannabe actor, getting ready to head out to California to break it big. Her mother Sue (Barbara Barrie, Hercules, NBC's Suddenly Susan) is a schoolteacher whom everyone hates. She is short with her students and disrespectful to her peers. Her principal, Arthur Gold (Bob Dishy, Used People, Critical Condition) is living unhappily with his clueless wife Alice (Madeline Kahn in her final performance) and son Adam (Aaron Harnick, 30 Days). Adam is a filmmaker who, for unknown reasons, is currently living back at home with his parents. He is depressed, lonely, and afraid to go outside. Adam went to high school with Judy, and they happen to meet on the street the day she plans to leave. Adam Gold is probably a better name for the movie, since the bulk of the movie focuses on him.

Because of the eclipse, people's attitudes and personalities change, mostly for the better. Perhaps the lingering darkness serves as a sort of catalyst. Who knows? The story is predictable, but Mendelsohn does have a talent for writing realistic dialogue. The people are so normal that their awkwardness towards each other is painful to watch. Conversations seem stilted and long pauses reign supreme, as if David Lynch were somehow involved in the production. This is not the way a normal movie operates. The black and white camera work is also good. Mendelsohn does not simply take away the color; he uses shadows to bring out certain elements of the story. Mendelsohn's humor often falls flat, although it is hard to say whether this is done on purpose. The most redeeming quality of Judy Berlin is the acting. The actors don't have much to go on, but they try their hardest. All of them play to perfection, letting the viewer slowly build an ambivalent animosity towards their characters. Judy Berlin is probably best left to movie critics.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 37 minutes, Black and white, Not Rated, but some language.

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