6.8/10
2,826
59 user 36 critic

Focus (2001)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 2 May 2002 (Australia)
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2:33 | Trailer

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In the waning months of World War II, a man and his wife are mistakenly identified as Jews by their anti-Semitic Brooklyn neighbors. Suddenly the victims of religious and racial persecution... See full summary »

Director:

Neal Slavin

Writers:

Arthur Miller (novel), Kendrew Lascelles (screenplay)
2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William H. Macy ... Lawrence Newman
Laura Dern ... Gertrude Hart
David Paymer ... Mr. Finkelstein
Meat Loaf ... Fred (as Meat Loaf Aday)
Kay Hawtrey ... Mrs. Newman
Michael Copeman ... Carlson
Kenneth Welsh ... Father Crighton
Joseph Ziegler ... Mr. Gargan
Arlene Meadows Arlene Meadows ... Mrs. Dewitt
Peter Oldring ... Willy Doyle
Robert McCarrol Robert McCarrol ... Meeting Hall Man (as Robert Mccarrol)
Shaun Austin-Olsen Shaun Austin-Olsen ... Sullivan
Kevin Jubinville ... Mr. Cole Stevens
B.J. McQueen B.J. McQueen ... Mel
Conrad Bergschneider ... Tough's Leader
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Storyline

In the waning months of World War II, a man and his wife are mistakenly identified as Jews by their anti-Semitic Brooklyn neighbors. Suddenly the victims of religious and racial persecution, they find themselves aligned with a local Jewish immigrant in a struggle for dignity and survival. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Everything Is About To Become Very Clear

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence and some sexual content | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 May 2002 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Foco See more »

Filming Locations:

Toronto, Ontario, Canada See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$24,139, 21 October 2001, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$717,820, 17 March 2002
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Neal Slavin claimed to have wanted to make this film since college. See more »

Goofs

About halfway through the movie, Larry and Gert are in an automobile. There is a vinyl "Sport Grip Steering Wheel Cover" laced around the steering wheel of the car. It is noticeable due to its distinctive pattern of perforations and cushioning. This item was not in existence in 1944, the year the movie is set in. See more »

Quotes

Lawrence 'Larry' Newman: Really, Gertrude, I never stop thinking about you. It's like I've been thinking about you for years. That's why you struck me so the first time I saw you.
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Crazy Credits

In Loving Memory of Frieda Oline Burkhart See more »

Connections

Referenced in Shanghai Kiss (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

My First Love
Written by Ruth Lowe and Mack David (as David Mack)
Performed by Jan Garber's Orchestra
Published by Music Sales Corp. / Universal MCA Music Publishing
A Division of Universal Studios, Inc. (ASCAP)
Courtesy of Circle Records, New Orleans, LA
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User Reviews

 
Brings clarity to a fuzzy subject
12 November 2001 | by Shiva-11See all my reviews

First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

Attributed to Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

When faced with intolerance or injustice, the easiest thing to do is nothing - speak up and you risk becoming an object of scorn. But when does enough become too much? Global anti-Semitic sentiments allowed Hitler's genocidal policies to thrive, and equal doses of fear-mongering and ignorance made it possible for the anti-Communist purges of McCarthyism to destroy thousands of peoples' lives. Inaction makes one no less culpable.

Lawrence Newman is a chameleon of a man: quiet and nondescript he blends seamlessly with his surroundings. Lawrence doesn't like to get involved - when he witnesses an attack on a young woman, he tells no one and goes about his business. His world spirals into chaos when he buys a pair of glasses, and is mistaken for one of "them." Lawrence's view of the world and its view of him is forever altered.

While the subject matter of this film is not new, its presentation is definitely unique. It is much easier to understand the irrational nature of prejudice, when placed within a certain context - Lawrence is more concerned with the assumptions that he is Jewish, than he is with the views of his attackers. He believes that if he corrects this "oversight" that everything will be all right, not realizing that logic and prejudice never go hand in hand.

Whether playing a schemer (the only thing I liked about "Fargo") or a down home nice guy sheriff, William H. Macy's roles are linked by a common thread -his characters share a subtle, deliberate countenance that gives them substance. Macy nails Lawrence down to the smallest detail, and says more with a furtive glance or tremble in his voice than a page of dialogue. By showing, rather than telling, Lawrence is able to share his fear and bewilderment with the viewer. The supporting cast brings the story together.

Laura Dern is compelling as Gerty, Lawrence's bombshell wife with a past. Trailer park rough, yet other worldly wise, she has also felt the wrath of prejudice as the result of "a mistake" and unwittingly exacerbates Lawrence's situation. Michael Lee Aday (aka "Meatloaf") is frightening as Fred, the prototypical redneck next door, equal parts ignorance and venom, rallying neighbours to his virulent cause. In the midst of the chaos is Finklestein (David Paymer), the focus of the aggression, and the voice of reason that raises the important questions. Paymer's even handed portrayal keeps Finklestein from becoming a stereotype or someone whose sole purpose is to engender sympathy, making his one of the strongest performances in the film.

The tight editing and close-cropped cinematography make for a clean picture with few distractions, and mixes an air of claustrophobia in with the small town USA feel - it is simultaneously comforting and disturbing. The deliberate use of harsh two-tone lighting to accentuate the malevolent aspects of the piece and the carefully scored soundtrack, are powerful without being overwhelming. Finally, the set and costume designs recreate the feel of the era, an essential component in the film's message.

"Focus'" unconventional approach in dealing with prejudice is reason enough to recommend this film. Just consider the excellent story, solid acting and look of the film as added bonuses.


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