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Movie Review

Keeping the Faith

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality and language

Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Romance Comedy
Length:
_____
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Scene from “Keeping the Faith”
Featuring: Edward Norton, Eli Wallach, Jenna Elfman, Ron Rifkin, Ben Stiller
Director: Edward Norton, Anastas Michos
Producer: Howard W. “Hawk” Koch Jr., Edward Norton, Howard Koch, Stuart Blumberg
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

Just because “Keeping the Faith” alludes to religion in its title and the main characters are men of the cloth, a rabbi and a priest, doesn’t mean this movie is spiritually uplifting. It isn’t.

Edward Norton plays Father Brian and Ben Stiller plays Rabbi Jacob. They are childhood friends who have committed their lives to their respective faiths. And if it weren’t for the arrival of their childhood friend Anna (Jenna Elfman), who knows what would have happened? Maybe something spiritual.

Scene from “Keeping the Faith”

But Anna does come back as she visits them while on a business trip. And of course these young men are young men, testosterone intact, and they both fall for her. However, she is interested only in Rabbi Jacob. Chemistry, I suppose. They keep their romance a secret from their best friend, Brian. They unabashedly have sex, without giving morality another thought. When Father Brian finds out about them, he goes to a bar to drink his woes away.

The premise of the movie—namely, best friends and people involved with religious service falling for the same woman—could be the makings of a thought-provoking movie. Or it could be a hilarious comedy. “Keeping the Faith” strives for both and is only marginally successful.

As for spiritual considerations, there is not a speck of concern over the immorality depicted. Artistically, this is a very disappointing movie that underutilizes the considerable talents of Stiller and Norton. Maybe next time.


Viewer Comments
This movie is especially worth seeing for all those who have a faith and belief in Jesus, as it relates to many common concepts Christians are familiar with. Hopefully, many pre-christians will see it too, and catch a glimpse of some of the truth messages brought across. The situation of the Rabii is a little unrealistic, in regard to his apparent total lack of conscience concerning his relations with Anna. But overlooking this detail, it is highly recommended!
—Steve Endel Ots, age 22
…could well be used by certain Christians as an exercise in learning compassion. It is far better to try to understand the complex situations the characters find themselves in rather than judge them on their weaknesses… Father Brian doesn’t condone homosexuality as some reviewers here suggest. …In this movie the priest and the Rabbi try to be true to their faith in a complex modern world, and they are not Jesus Christ, but mere mortals who make mistakes like the rest of us. The film does a good job of depicting this…
—Brad Adams, age 25
I loved this movie and would recommend it to anyone. It takes a look at a realistic time in our society. I thought it answered a huge question about priests and their commitment to celibacy. We all sin in life, and it’s what we do with our sin that counts for the future…
—Trish, age 32
This movie is one which captures what its like juggling relationships while having a strong faith. It reflects the difference between religion and relationship with God. Both Jake (Rabbi) and Brian (Catholic) knew the scriptures and were involved in their religions, but seemed to lack a friendship with God and a respect for the scriptures. It worries me that the movie projects a sexual weakness for those single in ministry. The world needs to know that it’s possible to be single, love God and there’s lots of us doing it pure. This movie simply makes something so pure so cheap, and makes the church far less than what is and can be. It’s hard to laugh when you know it’s a poor representation of these faiths. The Church is to be the bride of Christ… pure and not made a joke of in subtle ways like this. My Ratings: [2/3]
—H., age 30
If you want to see modern faith in action, catch this one… [this film] tackles important questions that Christians (or people of any other faith) need to be thinking about today. Particularly good are the brief snippets of sermons given by the two lead characters… Notice especially Ben Stiller’s apology to his congregation—he asks forgiveness not for what he has done, but for not sharing it with his congregation… It is rare to find a film (or a church, for that matter) that captures so well a grace that is not moralistic or behavioristic. Bravo to Edward Norton on this one!
—Peter, age 21
As a Ben Stiller fan, I went to this movie expecting a comedy. If you have seen the commercials for this movie, you’ve seen every funny part of the movie already. The rest is a drama, involving the budding romantic relationship between Rabbi Jacob and Anna and Father Brian’s conflicting emotions regarding this. On a whole, it wasn’t very offensive to me as a Christian. The one thing that did bother me (besides the sexual relationship between Rabbi Jacob and Anna) is that it presented more of a “world view” of religion vs. having a personal relationship with God. Rabbi Jacob had several speeches throughout the movie that sounded suspiciously new-age (I’m OK, You’re OK, who needs God?). All in all, I felt that the movie was mis-represented by the advertisements, and if I had known the true nature of the film I would have saved my money! My Ratings: [3/2]
—Tonia Chvala, age 30
The most frightening thing about this movie is that non-Christians and possibly some Christians will watch it and think that they’ve just watched a warm and fuzzy family sort of film that promotes harmony between religions. Even if you ignore the fact that the devout Jewish rabbi is premaritally fornicating his brains out and the Roman Catholic priest is promoting homosexuality, the single defining difference between Christians and Jews is completely overlooked: Jesus Christ. It’s as if the movie is saying that if we could just get rid of Jesus, we’d all get along wonderfully. My Ratings: [1/3]
—Anonymous, age 43
This movie contains many scenes of sexual situations without nudity. Relative to Hollywood, this is a movie with some redemptive messages (homilies about the nature of man’s relating to God) and acknowledgement of cultural diversity. Its primary message is tolerance of race, creed, religion, and ethnic differences. However, from a Biblical perspective, there are some very disconcerting messages. The rabbi finds his true love primarily through fornication and keeps his congregation. The priest vows that he is heterosexual, but if he was homosexual that would be okay as long as he follows the rules, excessive use of alcohol is justified to relieve stress or pain, it’s okay to use the name of The Lord in vain since it doesn’t mean anything (“If a priest and rabbi can do this, surely I can!”), and most disconcerting of all, our “humanity” is what brings sensibility to religion; when in fact, our “humanity” is what prompts us to reject a relationship with God and replace Him with “religion”. Plus, this film gets real slow the last hour.
—Mark Dawson, age 50
I was pleasantly surprised at this movie! Hollywood actually put one across that did not offend; and the subject matter dealt a lot with spirituality/religion, which REALLY made it a pleasant surprise, as it did not portray Christianity as “Far Right Wacko”. Two of the three main characters DID sleep together, but the scenes were not graphic and the subject of sex was dealt with openly and honestly. I highly recommend this one. My Ratings: [4/4]
—Hilda Lewis, age 56
The movie seems to condone bad behaviour of clergy. It justifies sex before marriage, and never says it is wrong. In Timothy it mentions how our pastors and leaders are held to a higher standard and will incur a stronger judgment, but this movie tries to invalidate that spirit. Very disturbing movie! My Ratings: [1/3½]
—Anonymous