Keeping the Faith

USA 2000

Reviewed by Philip Kemp


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Aged 13, Jake Schram, Brian Finn and Anna Reilly were best friends at school in Manhattan until Anna moved to California. Some 15 years later, Jake is a rabbi and Brian a Catholic priest. Anna returns to New York as a high-powered corporate executive. The three renew their friendship, but Brian is constrained by his cloth while Jake, soon to succeed the aged Rabbi Lewis, is under pressure to marry a Jewish woman.

On a date with television reporter Rachel, Jake invites Brian and Anna along as a supposed couple to ease the situation. All three are confused by their feelings. Having seen Rachel home, Jake goes to Anna's apartment and they fall into bed together. They keep their affair secret from Brian and everybody else, although the pressures of Anna's work and Jake's congregation put the relationship under strain.

About to be moved to San Francisco, Anna tells Jake she loves him. He refuses to commit and they break up. Anna calls Brian; when he learns what's been happening he violently confronts Jake. The two are later reconciled, but Jake keeps away from Anna. His mother Ruth tells him he should follow his heart. Jake announces at the synagogue he's in love with a Gentile; after some debate he's approved as the new rabbi. He rushes to Anna's office. They show up together at the inauguration of Brian and Jake's ecumenical social centre. Anna reveals she's been taking instruction from Rabbi Lewis.


Religion has always enjoyed a pretty easy ride from Hollywood; even when it's taken as a subject for comedy, the jokes about priestly celibacy, rebellious nuns or even God himself have lacked any real satirical bite. For years 'religion' in Hollywood meant the Catholic Church, since the Jewish studio heads preferred to keep all mention of Jewishness off the screen. But since Judaism became an acceptable movie topic it's been treated with much the same respectful jocularity.

Keeping the Faith, Edward Norton's directorial debut, carries on this tradition, playing like a descendant of such bland comedies as Going My Way (1944) in which Fr Bing Crosby joshed with the Mother Superior. The wrestlings with conscience may go a little deeper, and the references to sex are a lot franker, but in the end no boats are seriously rocked. The rabbi enjoys an affair with a shiksa, but finally that's OK because she's studying to convert. The priest suffers pangs of jealousy, but conscience prevails and he conceals his urges beneath his soutane. For a while it looks as if the girl may start bedding both rabbi and priest, which could have made for a rather more interesting film; but Stuart Blumberg's script backs off and plays it safe.

Within these cautious confines the comedy is mostly fresh and diverting, with some shrewd insights into the use of faith as a displacement strategy. "Jews want rabbis to be the kind of Jews they don't have time to be," observes Jake, the rabbi who falls in love with his childhood friend Anna. "And Catholics want priests to be what they don't have the discipline to be," responds his priest friend Brian. Norton, who also plays Brian, draws likeable, lively performances from his cast, though Jenna Elfman as Anna takes a while to ease into her role and Norton's own abrupt character shift from good listener to brash conclusion-jumper feels awkwardly plot-driven.

But though it sidesteps the key issues in favour of a cop-out ending, Keeping the Faith can claim one major virtue: its wholehearted embrace, and indeed celebration, of the joys of a multiracial society. In one of the film's funniest moments, Jake enlivens the singing in his synagogue by introducing a black Gospel choir to join in. Most of the action is told in flashback, with Norton's priest recounting events to the traditional sympathetic barman, except that this stock character turns out to be a half-Punjabi "Sikh Catholic Muslim with Jewish in-laws". ("I am reading Dianetics," he adds.) And in the final scene, by way of a throwaway gag, we catch a glimpse of the Jewish television reporter Jake briefly dated - now with her new Afro-American boyfriend. It's a reprise of the message Norton put across in his Oscar-nominated performance in American History X - but conveyed here with far more good humour.


Edward Norton
Hawk Koch
Edward Norton
Stuart Blumberg
Stuart Blumberg
Director of Photography
Anastas Michos
Malcolm Campbell
Production Designer
Wynn Thomas
Elmer Bernstein
©Spyglass Entertainment Group, LP
Production Companies
Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present a Koch Co./Norton-Blumberg production
a Barber/Birnbaum production
Executive Producers
Gary Barber
Roger Birnbaum
Jonathan Glickman
Production Co-ordinator
Ellen Gannon
Unit Production Manager
Jonathan Filley
Location Manager
Michael Stricks
Assistant Directors
Mark Cotone
Stephen Lee Davis
Mark Carter
Script Supervisor
Deirdre Horgan
Avy Kaufman
Beth Bowling
Camera Operators
Ken Ferris
Thomas G. Weston
Digital Visual Effects
Special Effects
John Ottesen
Art Director
Chris Shriver
Set Decorator
Leslie E. Rollins
Scenic Artist
James E. Geyer
Storyboard Artist
Brick Mason
Costume Designer
Michael Kaplan
Wardrobe Supervisors
Tommy Boyer
Cheryl Kilbourne-Kimpton
Key Artist:
Carla White
Rita Ogden
Key Stylist:
Victor De Nicola
Jacqueline Payne
Main/End Titles Design
Nina Saxon/New Wave Entertainment
Buena Vista Imaging
Vivian Cherry
Robin Clark
Melonie L. Daniels
Ada Dyer
Lisa Fischer
Frank Floyd
Ayana George
Loris Holland
Paulette McWilliams
Fonzi Thornton
James 'D-Train' Williams
Emily Bernstein
Patrick Russ
Executive in Charge of Music for the Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group
Kathy Nelson
Supervising Music Editor
Ken Karmen
Music Editors
Lisa Jaime
Kathy Durning
Score Recordist/Mixer
Dan Wallin
"The Way Things Used to Be", "Heart of Mine" - Peter Salett; "La Engañadora", "Madhuvanthi", "Tres Lindas Cubanas", "Melodia del Rio", "Mandinga" - RubĂ©n González; "Smooth" - Santana featuring Rob Thomas; "Power to the People" - Public Enemy; "Easy Riding" - Jake Elwood Blues Band; "Hot Nights" - John Leach; "Camels in the Desert" - Victor Cavini; "Go to Be Real" - Cheryl Lynn; "Play That Funky Music (White Boy)" - Wild Cherry; "Saludo a Chango" - Compay Segundo; "Pitseleh" - Elliott Smith; "Ein Keloheinu"; "Jessie's Girl"; "Ready to Take a Chance Again"; "Let's Get Away from It All"
Sound Mixer
Tom Nelson
Re-recording Mixers
Robert J. Litt
Kevin Carpenter
Michael Herbick
Mix Recordists
Marsha Sorce
Kevin Webb
Supervising Sound Editors
J. Paul Huntsman
Patrick Dodd
Dialogue Editors
Paul Curtis
John Stuver
Sound Effects Editors
Adam Johnston
Christopher Aud
Group Co-ordinator:
Burton Sharp
Francesca Dodd
Kevin Bartnof
Casey Crabtree
Chris Munyon
Eric Gotthelf
David L. Horton Jr
David M. Horton Sr
Technical Advisers
Rabbi Hillel Norry
Father John P. Duffell
Raphael M.A. Frieder
Stunt Co-ordinators
George Aguilar
Blaise Corrigan
Helicopter Pilot
Al Cerullo
Ben Stiller
Rabbi Jacob 'Jake' Schram
Edward Norton
Father Brian Kilkenny Finn
Jenna Elfman
Anna Reilly
Anne Bancroft
Ruth Schram
Eli Wallach
Rabbi Lewis
Ron Rifkin
Larry Friedman
Milos Forman
Father Havel
Holland Taylor
Bonnie Rose
Lisa Edelstein
Ali Decker
Rena Sofer
Rachel Rose
Ken Leung
Brian George
Indian bartender
Catherine Lloyd Burns
Susie Essman
Ellen Friedman
Stuart Blumberg
Sam Goldberg
Jake as a teen
Blythe Auffarth
Anna as a teen
Michael Roman
Brian as a teen
Jonathan Silver
Alan Klein
Brian Anthony Wilson
Juan Piedrahita
Kelly Deadmon
woman in bar
Raphael M.A. Frieder
Bodhi Elfman
Christopher Gardner
Santi Formosa
basketball kids
Francine Beers
Greta Mussbaum
Rena Blumberg
Ellen Hauptman
Roz Lentz
Liz Larsen
Matt Winston
Nelson Avidon
David Wain
Steve Posner
Donna Hanover
Wai Ching Ho
confessional women
Howard Greller
Brenda Thomas Denmark
Marilyn Cooper
'Don't Walk' lady
Hawk Koch
Rabbinical professor
Craig Castaldo
Radio Man
Keith Perry
old man hit with censor
John Arocho
Derrick Eason
Ray Carlson
Barbara Haas
mother in synagogue reception room
Sunny Keyser
Lorna Lable
Paula Raflo
Hillary Brook Canter
Dana Lubotsky
Alexandra Rella
Eugene S. Katz
Tony Rossi
hot dog vendor
John P. Duffell
Father Duffell
Keith Williams
AIDS patient
Buena Vista International (UK)
11.648 feet
129 minutes 26 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
In Colour
Prints by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011