Keeping the Faith (2000)

Friday, November 18, 2011

I do not like movies with conflict in them. What I mean by that is, generally I don’t like it when there are two equally nice guys who are vying for a woman’s attentions and both are genuinely in love with the leading lady. This decade old movie was something I’d been going to rent for a while now and finally, I rented the DVD and saw, what turned out to be, a movie where my reactions are mixed.

Young middle-schoolers Brian and Jake are inseparable but like many children, they have bully problems until the day when the pretty and tomboyish Anna Riley comes along. Then, everything changes. The three of them become the best of friends – they enjoy going to a ball game now and again, and any number of outdoor activities with Anna often besting them. After only a few short months of friendship, Anna’s father takes a job across the country leaving Jake and Brian in NYC and Anna starting a new life in California. Some twenty years later, Brian (Edward Norton) and Jake (Ben Stiller) are still the best of friends but their lives have gone in directions they’d have never expected. Brian has become an ordained Catholic priest with a real commitment to his faith, and Jake decided to throw away the family business of banking and is genuinely at peace with his decision to pursue his faith by becoming a Rabbi. Despite awkward beginnings and tepid audiences, both men soon garner a devoted following in their respective congregations and their noticeable passion for what they felt called to do soon spills over into new ideas to bridge the gap between drastically differing faiths. That is when Brian hears a voice from the past in the form of Anna…

A successful businesswoman, Anna (Jenna Elfman) is about to travel to the big city for business purposes, so she looks up Brian and arranges for the guys to meet her at the airport. The two of them are in awe of who Anna has become but despite it all, the three of them slip back into their comfortable friendship and they make the most of their limited time together. Anna participates in the guy’s new roles while she and Brian help Jake on a blind date by pretending to be a couple. Nothing in the world can prevent heartbreak when Anna’s feelings suddenly shift and she begins to fall for the one guy who could challenge not only her workaholic personality but also complicate her lifestyle – and could destroy the friendship she has with Brian and Jake.

For an older movie, I enjoyed this one. Most of the time, if I’ve not seen the movies I am interested in from this era of movie-making (late nineties into the early millennium era), I tend to ignore their presence on the shelves or am in no hurry to rent them. This one however, was different. For a reason I cannot put my finger on, I was really interested in renting it – it could have stemmed from the fact that I thought I remembered my mom saying it was adorable or it might have been the storyline. I wasn’t wrong in my assessment that the production of this would be way outdated (it is) and I was quite annoyed by the commentary voice-over which works as an idea for setting up the plot, but after that, I cannot say that there were many things for me to find fault with as regards the production vocabulary The filming isn’t always well set-up because it suffers from being a more out-dated film but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying this movie.

I knew the general premise of this movie going into it but at the same time, I thought it was going to be different than it was. I’d no idea that Anna fell for one guy – my mind told me that this scenario was more of a falling-for-two-guys-then-having-a-heck-of-a-time choosing one. Such a script is not to be found in the scenes of this cute little movie. I don’t think Stiller is the ideal man for romantic roles but… he is a great comedic and for all practical purposes, Keeping the Faith is chiefly, a comedy. Norton is nearly unrecognizable here as a blonde plus he also directed this little gem while Jenna is adorable in this role – she fits exactly the description and personality of how the writers set up her character (minus one terrible crying scene). Some viewers might be offended by certain approaches to faith this movie takes. I am not Jewish or Catholic so I wasn’t terribly offended by the flippant manner that some of the characters referenced God’s tolerance but that’s not to say I don’t understand why some people might take offense. The movie moves more into the territory of lasting friendships than anything so as a result it focuses on what it takes to ensure a relationship stays intact even when obstacles may hinder those friendships.

Keeping the Faith is far from perfect. It has a caviler attitude about more than one moral choice and seems to promote promiscuity in a casual manner, but buried beneath it all is a memorable comedy that is a charming ‘keeper.’

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(The movie is rated PG13 because… an unmarried couple engage in a sexual relationship – and in fact their entire relationship seems to revolve around a casual summer fling. They are seen passionately kissing a number of times with legs intertwined. Elsewhere, Jake’s date attempts to get him back to her apartment for an overnight stay. There are a few scattered profanities [including misuse of Jesus’ name]. Anna has the “sex talk” with Brian – he also has a “sexual fantasy” about Anna [it goes no further than kissing and is cut just when he rips open her top].) 


  1. Hmmm, this sounds interesting... Not sure I'd want to watched it though because of the sexual themes... :P Also because I REALLY don't like it when there are two guys {or girls} vying for the main character's attentions and affections.
    But you did a great job at reviewing this! :)

  2. Sans the immoral content (I bought an edited copy a long time ago) I love this movie: it is hilarious! I get why Brian was never in the running as a romantic lead, since he's a priest -- but *I* loved him! I would have chosen him hands down, even if it meant never having any actual romantic relationship with him. This is actually one of my favorite Ed Norton roles (the other two being The Illusionist and the Hulk!). I'm not really a fan of anyone else in the cast, but he MAKES the movie for me, even as a blonde (that is, apparently, his natural hair color).

  3. Trinka - thanks! I quite enjoyed this movie. It was a little too "dated" for my tastes, but still fun. =)

    I know what you mean about the content - it continues to be annoying even when it does conform to the PG13 rating...

    Charity - yeah, I watched this one on ClearPlay. In reading about the content, it didn't have anything "worse" in it than all the other rom-coms I love, but that's what I got the player for, so I want to use it!

    This did have some great humor. There was one scene (where Anna confesses everything to Brian) that I thought was a little fake but otherwise I thought everyone was great in their respective roles. Jenna was the perfect tomboy-ish character while Edward and Ben (don't love him though) made great male leads.

    Hmmm... so blonde is his natural color!? Guess I'd always seen him with darker hair - The Illusionist is a beautiful movie. My mom just said the other day that we'd not watched it for ages and she was right!


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