Volume 75, Number 39 | February 15 -21 2006

Film

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“The Tollbooth” (-)
Very few recently released films have received good reviews from the critics. Not having time to waste, I rarely see movies that have not been favorably reviewed. Often movies receiving good reviews are terrible, but it rarely works the other way. There being so little to choose from, I decided to see “The Tollbooth,” after reading Jeannette Catsoulis’ description of the film in The New York Times. She wrote:

“In The Tollbooth, a 22-year-old Sarabeth Cohen (Marla Sokoloff), a self-described ‘feminist artist,’ talks us through the travails of her Jewish-American family and her own coming of age. The youngest of three daughters, Sarabeth chafes against a mother (the reliable Tovah Feldshuh) defined by her commitment to separating meat from milk and a father (Ronald Guttman) preoccupied with Holocaust memories.”

The film is playing at The Quad in the Village near where I live, and when I arrived at the theater, it was packed. Several people introduced themselves to me as the parents and siblings of an actor in the movie. When names appeared on the screen at the beginning of the film to thunderous applause, it was clear to me that the audience was primarily made up of relatives and friends of people involved in making the film. The theater rocked when the name of an actor, writer, producer or camera person was shown. A number of people acknowledged my presence. As I left the theater, Ronald Guttman, who was in the audience said, “Thank you for coming Mayor.” I knew that many of them would be unhappy with me if I did not give the movie a good review, but what else does a critic have if not his integrity?

The parents have three daughers: Raquel (Idina Menzel) who is married to a schlemiel, Becky (Liz Stauber) a medical student at Columbia, who in the midst of the film comes out as a lesbian, and Sarabeth (Marla Sokoloff) the fine arts painter in love with an attractive Catholic boy, Simon (Rob McElhenney). Tovah Feldshuh and Ronald Guttman are totally professional in their roles as the beleaguered parents. Menzel, Stauber and Sokoloff give excellent performances, and McElhenney gives the best performance of all. Stefan Forbes does a beautiful job of photographing New York City at night. The script by Debra Kirschner had great possibility but lacked intensity and sufficient involvement, and I doubt that I will remember this film tomorrow. I cannot in good conscience recommend this movie; nevertheless, it was a good attempt by all involved. It will undoubtedly stretch them and hopefully their next production will be far better. I hope all involved have enough family members and friends to pack the theater for the next three weeks.

HS saw the movie with me. He said, “I saw the movie at the same time and found it a Jewish soap opera, cramming all manner of family disasters into one film. I cannot write the Yiddish words for the three boyfriends without going off the deep end of political correctness, but the words are there. Why should we Jews be so much tougher on films made by Jews, especially those who manage to retain their faith in the modern world? It is a charming home movie, with good actors, illustrating family dilemmas and the resulting discord. Gone With The Wind it is not, but I found it appealing, perhaps because I was so pleased that my parents were not like those in the film.”

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