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I don't think I'm slanted because much of the film was made in my
hometown... and the writer-director is the youngest son of a longtime
friend. But I thought I'd better establish those facts up
If you want to capture the true flavor of the south side of Chicago in the '70s, this movie does it. From the scenes in and around Holy Cross church in Deerfield, to the beautiful Jewish temple on the south side, to the 76th Street beach, to scenes in and around Chicago bungalows, even under the L tracks, this film has it. I grew up on a block on the south side where we were the only family that was not Irish-Catholic. This film depicts the values and relationships of those types of families very well.
Will anyone get a Golden Globe or an Academy Award from "Stolen Summer"? Probably not. But if you want to spend a couple of hours enjoying a good movie with a real message--go see "Stolen Summer". If you're a Chicagoan and want to see a slice of home... so much the better.
American films deal with all aspects of every day life: work, school,
marriage, family, divorce, adolescence, sexuality, crime, alcoholism, drugs,
disease, death - the range of subjects is virtually endless. Yet if you
were to look to films to get some sense of what defines American culture,
you would never know that religion played any kind of role at all in the
lives of the common, ordinary citizen. Spirituality seems to be the one
aspect of life that never gets acknowledged even by the most incisive of
filmmakers. Of course, we do occasionally run across the serial killer who
claims to be doing `the Lord's work' as he's butchering his victims, or the
diabolical Catholic Church hierarchy plotting the deaths of hundreds to
maintain its nefarious hold on its riches and power, or the sleazy
evangelist who is out there bilking millions out of their life savings in
exchange for a phony one way ticket to eternal glory. But we almost never
see just plain garden-variety folks who go to church, value their faith and
try to make their religion an intricate part of their workaday lives. Why
Well, `Stolen Summer' is that rare American film which actually acknowledges that religion plays a key role in many people's lives. It's Chicago, 1976, and 8-year old Pete O'Malley, fearful of going to hell, is on a quest to assure his place in heaven by converting neighborhood Jews to the Christian faith. As part of his effort, he enlists the aid of a local rabbi who, admiring Pete's honesty and willingness to seek for Truth, agrees to let the boy set up a lemonade-cum-salvation stand outside his temple. The film deals with a wide array of characters, including members of Pete's family as well as the rabbi's, who have varying reactions to both Pete's stated goal and the burgeoning friendship between Pete and the rabbi's own son.
`Stolen Summer' is not afraid to confront the sectarian nature of religion that is often used as a means of dividing people of faith rather than bringing them together. Moreover, by viewing the world through the unfiltered eyes of these two innocent young boys, writer/director Pete Jones points up the empty ritualism that often defines how we adults choose to practice our faith. Pete and Danny, by cutting through the layers of nonsense and getting to the simple heart of the matter, force many of the grownups in the film to re-evaluate their own beliefs and practices.
It's also nice to see a family in a film that, although it has problems, is not thoroughly angst-ridden and dysfunctional. The O'Malley's are an intact Irish Catholic family whose eight children are a clear testament to the couple's adherence to papal decrees on birth control. In an excellent, multi-layered performance, Aidan Quinn plays Pete's father, Joe, a hard-working fireman who is proud of his ethnic roots and who feels that the most important role for a man in this world is to take care of his family. Yet, Joe has problems of his own. For one thing, he has an excessive sense of pride that prevents him from wanting his children to have a better life than the one he has made for them. He believes that his college-aged son should be content to work as a dutiful civil servant rather than pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. Moreover, Joe obviously fears what he doesn't know or understand and this comes out in subtle flashes of anti-Semitism, which put him in direct conflict with the rabbi and even his own son at times. Joe is, in many ways, the most interesting character in the film mainly because Jones is careful not to peg him as either a total hero or total villain. Bonnie Hunt and Kevin Pollack offer strong support as Joe's levelheaded wife and the open-minded rabbi, respectively. And young Adiel Stein scores big time as the centerpiece of the film, little Pete O'Malley. Stein conveys an upbeat childlike innocence that is infectious without becoming cutesy or cloying. He is utterly believable as a young boy coming-of-age in a suburban home in the 1970's.
`Stolen Summer,' because it deals gently with its people and its subject matter, may strike some as a bit too mild in tone, a bit too lacking in grit to be worth very much. And, in a sense, they may be right. The film does sometimes come off a bit like one of those `good for you' After School Specials designed to deliver an upbeat, heartwarming message about the goodness of mankind without unduly upsetting anyone in the audience. And the movie does feel a bit contrived at times, more concerned with wringing tears or teaching a lesson than it is in capturing life in its rawest form for all of us to see. But no matter. It's still a pleasure to see a film at least attempting to acknowledge both that people do think about religion and God from time to time in this world and that we all don't come from families torn asunder by personal trauma. Yes, one could perhaps wish for a bit more edginess at times - still, `Stolen Summer' merits praise for bringing religion back into the mainstream of American movies.
Having finally seen `Stolen Summer' I was more surprised than anyone to find
the film extremely fetching. I thought it was well made and well acted. It
was written and directed by a total novice, Pete Jones, who won a contest-
as silly as that sounds. There are scenes that can be called schmaltzy but
they seem to fit in with the mood of the picture and feel deserved; they're
not simply tacked on as emotional buttons like in lesser screenplays. I hate
watching kids in movies because they usually go hand and hand with loud
noises and special effects. However, this screenplay gives these kids some
heavy-duty subject matter to explore and their performances are intriguing.
One might complain the film doesn't have any visual flair or creative camera
angles and such. I think the film captures the austere sluggishness of the
1970's rather well.
After reading the external reviews for this movie I had to write a comment. One would think all the nation's critics united against this film. One reviewer said `There are probably at least nine people who will sit all the way through the well-meaning but inert `Stolen Summer'. What's that mean? Did the guy watch twenty minutes of it and split? Are professional critics allowed to do that? I find that incredibly aggravating. I think all people involved in the film business are eventually driven to this kind of cynicism and contempt. I myself was rather turned off watching `Project Greenlight' on HBO. I realize making movies is an expensive enterprise but there's got to be a better way next time than what Jones went through. They had his you-know-what's in a vice the entire time and treated him like he was just touring Universal Studios for the day. I guess Hollywood is finally letting us in on their secret that any schmuck off the street can make a movie because in the end it's the executives who really make all the decisions. The director might as well devote his time to the catering concerns.
"Stolen Summer" is the ultimate heart warmer. While it isn't a GREAT story, and it does have its cliches, it is good enough to hold somebody's attention. Kevin Pollock is surprisingly good, as are Aidan Quinn and Brian Dennehey. Overall, it was pretty enjoyable.
This movie was one of the best movies that I have seen in a very long while. It was touching and very motivating. The two young boys in this film were fabulous actors and made the story so great. It was so easy to relate to the dynamics between the two families and to feel there pain and confusion. As a mother, I would want my children to be a part in viewing this movie in order to conjure up a open conversation about it's contents and morals. I would be concerned with anyone of any faith to not feel the same about this movie. Messages like the one presented in this movie are few and far between these days. I would recommend it for your whole family regardless of your ages or beliefs.
I thought Stolen Summer was competently done. The director, Pete Jones, was blessed with great performances from well known performers like Bonnie Hunt, Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollak, and Brian Dennehy. The film explores the differences between Catholicism and Judaism seen through the eyes of a child. The child protagonist takes on the challenge of making sure a Jewish child goes to heaven. The story is set on the South Side of Chicago in the mid-70's and since I grew up in roughly that time I enjoyed the talk about the White Sox of that era. The authenticity overall is accurate, but the film lacks a spark. Watching an 8-year-old try to figure out some of the intricacies of life is a great idea for a story. I just think that the plot lacked any real surprises.
It's rare that a film like this comes along. Sometimes, they slip right
by, and if you're lucky you get the chance to see them. This is one
Even after four years of it's debut, I'd never seen the film, and only remembered seeing one preview for it, before it came out on video. I recently had the opportunity to see it, and wasn't hesitant to watch it, but I assumed it would be worse than I'd anticipated, given the summary I read on this website. I was completely, and pleasantly wrong.
This film touches you in so many ways, that it's hard to even find the words for how wonderful it really is. Throughout the whole movie, you are given opportunities of laughter, sadness and thought.
The film circles around a nine year old boy, growing up in the 1950s, in a Catholic home with nine other siblings. His sweet and sympathetic mother, and limited to a high school diploma father, raise him and his brothers and sisters, with the faith that the church encourages. After being bullied somewhat, by one of the nuns at his all boys Catholic school, he decides in order to make her like him more, he will try to convert someone to Catholicsism, before the summer ends.
He decides to make a free lemonade stand in front of a Jewish Synagauge, in order to tell people about Christ, and how they can get into heaven for "free". He befriends the Rabbi of the Synagauge (Pollak), and soon learns that his son has leukemia. From then on, he decides he will help convert the little boy, before he grows any sicker.
It's an amazing movie, that will leave you feeling good, and secure. It has it's moments of tears, but the majority of the film is laughter, and thoughtfulness.
I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, regardless of religion, or ethnicity, it's a film that everyone will enjoy, and I don't think anyone could honestly be offended by it. I loved it, and hope to see it again in the future.
Stolen Summer is all coy piano music; character arcs we anticipate and
flimsy narrative frameworks that wouldn't necessarily feel out of place
in a television movie. Hark, then we spot that the film was actually
the result of a television programme; a show set up by endowed
Hollywood acting royalty in the form of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and
designed to get independent films off the ground when they wouldn't
ordinarily see the light of day the sentiment a whole lot better than
the end product, while somewhat tellingly, the show has hardly
flourished since. Much like the film that was a result of it, the
experiment was done with the best of intentions although ultimately
came out a little flat. Stolen Summer is very much the sort of piece
that possesses the capability of attracting great criticism, but it
isn't necessarily one of those films one particularly takes pleasure
from criticising; you root for it from its humble beginnings right the
way through to its, albeit relatively phony, climax, but all the while
willing it on to pull away from tepid foundations and spiritless
crucibles so as to widen out into a broader; more inspiring, surprising
realm. Alas, it doesn't quite make it and if anything, comes close to
rather annoying the viewer in the process.
The film covers that of a Chicago based family in the summer of 1976; specifically, this family and their slow inception into varying religious realms through the presence of a local Jewish community whom come to have somewhat of an impact on them. The family, staunch Catholics named the O'Malley's, consist of an array of archetypes ranging from the hard-nosed and very masculine father; to the young son on the cusp of adulthood; to the much younger infant son stuck in there amidst the oft-worried housewife/mother whom essentially functions as a voice of antagonism when she isn't required to remain anonymous. The father, a certain Joe (Quinn), is a firefighter but is a beer swilling; easily wound up guy whom enjoys a gamble with his colleagues at work, and lives for that sensation of working long; hard and manly hours in a physical job so that he may provide for a family he thus feels exists to be bossed about on account of this. Patrick (Kaye-Thomas), Joe's eldest son, is near-enough in his twenties; a softly spoken individual, wiry and not the pit-bull his father is - a person with the steady job of a lifeguard and imbuing characteristics that generally clash with that of his dad.
The sweetest, and probably most substantial strand, covers that of Pete (Stein), who's the youngest of the family and a kid now out of his Catholic school given the summer holidays have begun. Pete has a confused outlook on the all of the world; life and most things around him; a boy with a fear of Hell, damnation and such recently instilled into him via the school, and thus sees himself as a bit of sinner or as someone going out of his way to avoid Godly retribution; so much so that he decides to dedicate the entire break to essentially repenting or trying to find redemption for a bad act he hasn't even done, something eventually forming into the encouraging of a certain young, local but terminally ill boy named Danny (Weinberg) to become Catholic. There is a telling moment on the eve of what Pete labels his "quest", an exchange between he and another boy playing baseball out there on a diamond; the large metallic fence surrounding the pitch and housing either boy on either side of it an indication of their separate sides: a physical splitting of how the respective children will spend their break, a divide surmising one boy and that of sports and leisure and another soul searching away from such things.
Pete's proverbial quest for redemption syncs up nicely with Affleck's own off screen repenting, a pouring of the cash he most certainly made for the previous year's monstrosity Pearl Harbour into that of humbler; more rounded foundings. Upon undertaking the pilgrimage, Pete comes to discover alternate religions and eventually intermingles with the local Jewish community; initial ignorance encapsulated by his meagre Cynagog suggestions early on, which would make little sense to execute. Pete's eventual coming to bond with Danny sees this child's unfortunate disease loom over proceedings; the kid seriously ill enough to be in and out of chemotherapy and yet finds room to swim unenviable distances in what are perceived as "record times" whilst out at sea.
Spinning around Pete's journey of self-discovery lies Joe's strand of being forced into confronting prejudices, a plot line to the film exuding degrees of obligatoriness and painfully highlighting its often languid, often standardised nature of rolling through the motions. It's here the film provides us with politics that are so firmly in the right place, that their entrenchment in such areas actually becomes a little grating. Stolen Summer very much feels like a machine that's just been oiled a little too well; it is often impassive and feels mostly processed, its cogs and wheels therein beautifully kept and working to such a pristine order that does not allow for a great deal of involved antagonism; does not allow for a great deal of ambiguity nor a great deal of blurring of anybody's morals. The piece very much the sort of film refusing to deviate from its grounded route, and it will at once both suffer and excel in its own peculiar ways to varying people as a result.
I have not been so impressed with a movie in a very long time, the child who played the boy (Adiel Stein) was perfect... he and this story really wrenched my heart, and by the end I was nearly in tears. Today there are not enough stories that are about the pure love of a childs heart, or depict the faith that can be displayed by children. I really think this is a must see movie.
Maybe it's the timing, but this movie hit me and my husband right in the heart. We are new parents of a six week boy and the movie had both of us ending up with tears in our eyes. The comedic writing kept us giggling and entertained while understanding that there is a deeper purpose. This is the way movies should be made. Thank you...
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