Movie Reviews
1:30 pm
Fri December 7, 2001

Focus

It's so didactic, it's so moralistic, you might feel superior to Arthur Miller...

It's so didactic, it's so moralistic, you might feel superior to Arthur Miller, whose story about anti-Semitism in Brooklyn is a sledgehammer reminder that art with a message should at least go obliquely if not subtly. The Jewish grocer says with a straight face, "When you look at me, you don't see me." I think we get the point.

But this noir cautionary tale has 1943 period style and some knockout photography. The classy camera work comes from still photographer Neal Slavin, directing his first feature. The two shot of Macy and Dern at the end coming to terms with their decency is long enough to let two actors do some impressive emoting with a subtlety not apparent in the rest of the film. You may think the shot takes too long, but as always I am reminded of the final scene on the bus in "The Graduate." "Focus" is an expressionist piece meant to convey theme, not reality.

It does do well, however, showing the quirky romance and marriage of nerdy Macy and leggy, aging Dern, both confused for Jews and suffering accordingly. They are interesting nonconformists, not heroic and not particularly bright, who are forced to take arms as the world had to after Pearl Harbor.

Mainstream Muslims right now in our country can feel the same danger as American Jews or Japanese did more than half a century ago. In that regard the film is a success.