Keeping The Faith


Directed by: Edward Norton
Written by:Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach, Ron Rifkin, Milos Forman, Holland Taylor
Released: June 8, 2000
Grade: B+

Edward Norton has a sixth sense when it comes to picking top movies.  His very first film, Primal Fear, earned him a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination.  In quick succession came other great performances in The People Vs. Larry Flynt (a personal favourite of mine), Everyone Says I Love You, Rounders, Fight Club and American History X (earning him another Oscar nomination).  Not a bad career for someone who graduated with a history degree from Yale in 1991.

As if all those previous successes weren’t good enough, Norton has branched out with his directorial debut in Keeping The Faith, based on a screenplay by Stuart Blumberg.  We are introduced to Jake (Stiller), Brian (Norton) and Anna (Elfman) as 6th graders and “bestest friends”.  That is until Anna moves away with her family during the 8th grade.

Ten years pass and both find themselves in a career neither expected - Brian is a catholic priest and Jake is rabbi.  Both are still best friends and are setting up a karaoke bar for senior citizens as their gift to the community.  They are also very popular at their respective congregations and life is running smoothly.

Enter “Anna Banana” who returns to New York on business and wants to rekindle their friendship.  Anna is still as beautiful as ever and stirs feelings Brian and Jake had long forgotten.  Something is going to give...

Keeping The Faith is a very entertaining romantic comedy and gives the genre new life.  The most positive aspect of the film are the performances and connection between Norton, Elfman and Stiller.  They work wonderfully together, create many humorous moments and in a rarity for romantic films - they talk like real people.  Check for some smaller cameos from Anne Bancroft, Holland Taylor and even Milos Forman (the director of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus and The People Vs. Larry Flynt).

This is also a credit to the screenplay and Norton’s direction which shows just how talented he is.  The New York backdrop is beautifully captured through the camera lens (particularly in a scene between Stiller and Elfman on a riverside pier whilst at dinner).  Norton also uses close ups of characters to great effect.

Clocking in at just over two hours does hurt the film.  The final 30 minutes could have been summed up in less than half that time and been better for it but given there are so many wonderful moments in this film, I am willing to forgive.  There are so many “laugh out loud scenes” that start right from the opening credits and don’t let up.

Have you ever heard the one about the priest and the rabbi?  If you haven’t, make sure you do - it’s a good laugh.