A Price Above Rubies (1998)

reviewed by
James Brundage

*A Price above Rubies*
As Reviewed by James Brundage

Ok. When I reviewed Kundun, I reached the conclusion that I needed the raw thrill of ripping a movie to shreds in my bare hands. As almost an answer to my prayers, a movie comes along that can do just that... well, kindof. I can't really rip *A Price Above Rubies*, since it wasn't actually a terrible movie. Instead it was a movie that is, in my modern apotheosis of a negative utopia, a rarity: a movie neither good nor bad, the place between substance and shadow that does not quite reside in "The Twilight Zone".

So I am sitting down and now pondering which to write: the good review or the bad review, each a definite possibility, and the decision is reached: heads for good, tails for bad. But alas, the coins are upstairs and I am a lazy bum. So I guess I write option C: the mediocre review. The movie really wasn't either.

So we go into transcendence of both of the places...

1. A land of substance. On one hand, this was a film, like *Schindler's List*, that demonstrated the difficulties of being Jewish. Like anything Spike Lee turns out, it resounds as a fine ethnic film. It has metaphors, it has symbolism, it has memories, hallucinations, dreams, all of which are good points for the art film. It has plot, it has characters. It has a people that you care about. A strong human element. And, it has my often pick of Women's Lib, which, in this case, rubs off rather nicely. ++++.

2. A land of shadow. Of course there is the bad, and each point has a counterpoint. The characters, although you care about them, happen to be shades of gray. There are really no villains in this film about an Orthodox Jewish woman who has a life out of control and a strong inner fire. There's a boredom rate that insomniacs envy. There's a narrow target audience, and an even smaller group of people that will come out smiling. And, to top it off, there is something which *Schindler's List* gave off, but in a nicer way: controversy. From Yiddish cursing to challenging a religion that has been pretty much left alone by the film industry (if not aided) since WWII, and a graphic display of all sorts of sin, it just leaves you seeing the black, the white, and the gray. ----.

And that's what this film is: the black and the white and the gray. It's a coin with three sides, and I'm sorry, but I don't have all the answers. I'm not you. I liked it, but didn't love it. My advice for your decision: flip a coin.


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