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Harvey Weinstein attends dinner to honor Holy Rollers at the Sundance Film Festival

Rumors flew around Sundance that Harvey Weinstein attended a Sundance screening of Holy Rollers, directed by Kevin Asch, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Ari Graynor, Danny Abeckaser and Q-tip.  While the screening attendance may have been a rumor, there are photos on of the famous distributor on the red carpet of the film's celebration dinner at the "House of Hype".

It's not surprising the Weinstein's would be interested in a film of this nature.  It is truly independent and the subject matter is shocking.  When I first heard that, "Holy Rollers (was) inspired by actual events in the late nineties when Hasidic Jews were recruited as mules to smuggle ecstasy from Europe into the United States" I knew I had to see this film.  The unbelievable, but very true, subject matter was definitely a draw.

With all the 70's and 80's drug-culture films focusing on the harder drugs, it's only suiting that a film from the 90's focus on the designer ones.  It definitely helps
when the characters you're identifying with and feeling emotions for happen to be drug dealers.  Although the drug use throughout the film is prolific and at times exaggerated, there is also an exploration of a world not often seen by mainstream audiences, the lifestyle of the Hasidic Jew.  Although it is a very interesting and meaningful exploration, the characters use Hebrew quite often, and unless you have a grasp of the language, it makes the film difficult to follow at times without a translator. 
The end was also anti-climactic.  The character of Sam, played by Jesse Eisenberg, has an arch that comes full circle in the end with the suggestion that he re-habilitates and
re-assimilates into his community through serving a short sentence in jail.  Although his character grows and learns, the full circle leaves the audience a bit unfulfilled.  Perhaps it's not that we end right back where we started, but the abrupt ending that is the disappointment. 

Jesse Eisenberg is believable and appropriate, we root for his character throughout the film.  However, it is the very entertaining performance from Justin Bartha that truly stands out.  His character, Yosef, is a bad influence on young Sam who involves the film's hero with the self-indulgent world of drug smuggling, but we love him anyway.  Bartha's loveable demeanor and bad-boy behavior pulls the audience in right away and doesn't let go throughout the duration of the film.  And let's not forget the astonishing performance from Mark Ivanir who plays Sam's father, Mendel Gold.  I won't be surprised if we see more of him on the silver screen in the near future. 

Overall, Holy Rollers is definitely worth watching.  The uncommon pairing of drug smuggling and Haseeds creates a world less traveled, even in independent cinema. The quality acting, well-researched script and heart-felt execution of the filmmakers make up for the less-than-climactic conclusion.  I'm sure the Weinsteins will find a way to fix the ending should they decide to pick up the film. 


by Dianna Renée

Harvey Weinstein attends dinner to honor Holy Rollers at the Sundance Film Festival
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