Shmuel, a Hasidic cantor in Upstate New York, distraught by the untimely death of his wife, struggles to find religious solace, while secretly obsessing over how her body will decay. As a ...
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Shmuel, a Hasidic cantor in Upstate New York, distraught by the untimely death of his wife, struggles to find religious solace, while secretly obsessing over how her body will decay. As a clandestine partnership develops with Albert, a local community college biology professor, the two embark on a darkly comic and increasingly literal undertaking into the underworld.Written by
Dark (if not black) Jewish comedy is uneven but at times brilliant
"To Dust" (2018 release; 91 min.) brings the story of Shmuel, an Orthodox Jew. As the movie opens, Shmuel is at the hospital, where his wife just has passed away unexpectedly. Shmuel is bewildered and in deep grief. At night he has nightmares about what becomes of the body of his wife. He becomes obsessed with that, and by accident befriend Albert, a science professor at the local community college. Albert explains to Shmuel what becomes of a person's decaying body by showing the analogy of a decaying pig's body... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is one weird little movie. What starts out as a movie about grieving for a lost loved one, gradually evolves into something different altogether: a dark, if not black, comedy about decaying bodies, both of the human and of the animal kind, yeah... While the initial third of the movie is mostly so(m)ber and even macabre, the last hour is at times laugh-out-loud funny. The biggest surprise for me was the outstanding and all around charming performance from Matthew Broderick as the community college science professor who unexpectedly (but not unwillingly) becomes tangled up in the life of the grieving Orthodox Jew, leading to situations he probably never imagined possible. In that sense, the movie is a bizarre "buddy movie", pairing the Orthodox Jew to this divorced college professor. Check out the scenes as they go on the road to Knoxville, TN to check out a "body farm" (yea, it's kinda like that level of weirdness). Frankly, I'm amazed this movie even got made (and surely the fact that Broderick stars was the deciding factor in that). This little movie is way out there, and surely not for everyone. In the end, I found it uneven but at times brilliant.
"To Dust" premiered at last year's Tribeca film festival (yes, a year ago) and showed up out of the blue in the theater this weekend. I just had to check it out. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended by exactly 10 people, myself included, of which 2 couples left after about 20 min. and didn't return... If you are in the mood for a dark Jewish comedy that is "out there", I'd readily suggest you give this a chance, be it at the theater (not very likely), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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