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A Price Above Rubies - A price you may not want to pay

By Bence Olveczky

The press release for the latest Miramax offering tells us the following: "From acclaimed writer/director Boaz Yakin (Fresh) comes A Price Above Rubies, the passionate, provocative tale of a young woman who discovers - and must come to grips with - her own sexuality and individuality."

Unfortunately the film does not have the advertised effect. Instead of being "passionate and provocative," the film, whose biblical title sets a woman's worth to her husband, comes across as a pretentious and predictable exercise in pseudo-psychology. Rather than bore you with the details of this cinematic failure, I will make an honest attempt at interactive film reviewing. So get ready for the do-it-yourself version of A Price above Rubies.

First take your favorite Woody Allen movie, or if you don't have one, take the one that made you least angry. Now crank up the Jewish aspect of the film to orthodox, and strip it of its humor. It hurts, but do it anyway. Throw Woody out of the picture and make everybody in it serious, pious and one-dimensional.

What do you have? You're left with New York, a sexually deprived main character, and a lot of Jewish stereotypes - not enough to make a blockbuster, I'm afraid.

To make things a little better, throw in a fresh Hollywood star, Renée Zellweger (who played against Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire), and make her rebel against all the piety and boringness that you have filled your film with. Add a little bit of culture clash; orthodox versus not-so-orthodox will do just fine. And whatever you do, don't forget the cultural clichés: the greedy Jewish jewelry store owner, the suffering Jew, and the hypocritical Jew.

Did you leave anything out? Of course you did: sex. But remember - what you want is a serious film about the painful clash between ideologies, cultures, and basic human instincts. Call Freud for advice. He'll let you know that the Hollywood diva should be sexually repressed. You achieve this by placing her in an arranged marriage with a yeshiva (Jewish school) teacher whose ambition is to become a holy man and for whom an unbuttoned collar is a sexually explicit statement bordering on the outrageous.

Make sure your Freudian creation goes through the degrading experience of being scorned by her very family before you let her and the film reach their respective climaxes. After all of the suffering you have had your lead character go through, redemption would seem kosher. If you are generous (and I know you are), you let her be sexually satisfied by a virile outsider - a Puerto-Rican Catholic who also happens to be an artistic genius, for example.

Great. Now that your protagonist has battled the dark shadows of her past and emerged as a liberated woman, you are very close to a happy ending. The Puerto Rican sex machine/genius and the post-orthodox Jewish stunner are about to ride into the sunset when you realize that this is a production by Miramax - the self-proclaimed champion of independent cinema (owned by Disney).

The main distinction between Hollywood and independent cinema (besides the producers also directing and acting) is the ending. You can retain the indie-feel of your movie by adding a tablespoon of misery to the otherwise joyful finale: let regret of her ride into freedom surface in the liberated leading lady and, while you're at it, add some more sorrow by giving the orthodox father custody of their child. Finito. Basta.

Congratulations! You now have your own private version of A Price Above Rubies. If you are fond of your creation and would like to compare it to Israeli born director Boaz Yakin's version, then I suggest you rush to the cinema (if market forces rule, I predict it won't be playing very long). If what you have seems more like a cliché-ridden, outdated, and irritatingly boring film on the overworked subject of sexually deprived women rebelling against repressive cultural norms (recall The Piano), then you could do worse than to shun the film in favor of that problem set you have been putting off so long.