Keeping the Faith
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In New York City a priest and a rabbi both love the same woman. The three became fast friends as children. Now they’re reunited as adults. It’s not long before complications set in. The priest (Brian) loves Anna. Anna loves the rabbi (Jake). Jake loves Anna but pushes her away because she’s not Jewish. Now Anna, Brian and Jake aren’t such good friends anymore. Meanwhile, Brian and Jake devote their spiritual energies to bringing Jewish Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church "into the 21st century."
Positive Elements: Brian appears committed to his vows. He loves his ministry and believes that his celibacy is a demonstration of that commitment. Sure, he’s tempted, and admits that he might have thrown it all away had Anna responded differently, but he doesn’t. If he had stumbled, he says he would have given up the priesthood. Jake also loves his "ministry," but his commitment comes across on a much more superficial level than does Brian’s.
Spiritual Content: Most of the film is driven by spiritual content of one sort or another. Some of it is respectful, much of it is not. Played for laughs, Brian splashes down in the holy water after he accidentally sets his robe on fire. Both Brian and Jake attract crowds by presenting their sermons in a shoot-from-the-hip, stand-up comedian fashion. God is never credited for their "success," only their oration skills are applauded. The traditions of both sets of beliefs are in turn mocked and upheld. Brian and Jake long to teach their congregations an "old world God with a new age spin." They want believers to grow and expand instead of just relying on the comfort of tradition, and that’s a great thing. But at what theological cost? Brian preaches that faith is merely a "hunch" that connects everyone to God. Jake makes jokes about Sodom and Gomorrah. Anna talks about taking Yoga. And when a young Brian tries to teach Jake how to cross himself, he tells him a rhyme that starts out, "spectacles, testicles ..." A rudimentary line drawing of a nude woman is also displayed on the screen during this scene.
Sexual Content:"The rabbi and the girl" have sex repeatedly. Indeed, Jake and Anna’s relationship seems to be based heavily on their sexual appetites. Their make-out sessions always lead to sex (which is implied, not shown). The fact that Jake is a rabbi doesn’t seem to dissuade him from participating in premarital sex at all. Eventually, Jake apologizes to his congregation for "seeing" a non-Jew, but he’s never reprimanded or subjugated in any way for his immoral sexual behavior. Brian has a sexual fantasy about Anna, but never goes beyond kissing her (largely because she doesn’t reciprocate his advance). Anna and Jake use binoculars to peep in on a couple having sex in an office building across the street.
Violent Content: Brian punches Jake in the face. A young Anna kicks the schoolyard bully in the groin.
Crude or Profane Language: Jake and Brian both swear, using minor profanity and even the s-word occasionally. Brian takes Jesus’ name in vain, as do other minor characters.
Drug and Alcohol Content: Brian tells his sad story to a bartender while drinking to excess. As he drunkenly conveys the narrative, he continues to consume more and more alcohol. Wine, hard liquor, cigarettes and cigars all put in several appearances.
Summary: Keeping the Faith sets itself up as an equal opportunity offender. But it also plays the other side of the fence. Jews, Catholics and Protestants alike will all find some elements reprehensible. They will also all find things that are admirable. The script is up. Then it’s down. Positive spiritual messages mingle with flagrant immorality. A great point is made about commitment to God being a daily choice, not a one-time shot, but by the time the credits roll, your head is spinning with too much other manmade muck for it to sink in too deeply. Ecumenical unity and brotherhood (favorite themes of the film) are great things. Hollywood just doesn’t know how to preach the right sermon. But that might be a moot point. For many families, the foul language and sexual activity will be enough to keep them from darkening the door of the theater while this film is showing.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Edward Norton as Father Brian Finn; Ben Stiller as Rabbi Jacob Schram; Jenna Elfman as Anna Reilly. Also Anne Bancroft, Milos Forman, Kryss Anderson and Brian George
Edward Norton ( )