Thursday, May 06, 2010

Orthodox Jews play ball in The Yankles 

West Hollywood can be a city of parallel cultures, an urban bouillabaisse where straight, gay, homeless, skaters, rockers, celebutantes, Russian Jews and intellectual atheists greet each other on the street and sometimes even celebrate life together. This imbues a certain vibrancy of our city, a worldly sophistication.

This critic’s exposure to one of these groups - Orthodox Jews - is still rather limited.

Walking up to Whole Foods one fine evening, four Hasidic boys in the typical black and white uniform, accented with fedora hat and those curls flitted up the street laughing and cavorting atypically.

Spotting me, one blurted, “Are you Jewish?” Sarcastically, as I have always expressed disdain for any organized religion, I replied, “No, I am not a chosen one, and I’m also gay!”

Not missing a beat, the apparent leader of the merry band of revelers replied with a big grin and loudly that it was okay, G-D loved everyone! For a brief moment, I wanted to get out a Torah and do some reading.

I would wager this is the extent of most of WeHo’s non-Orthodox Jewish community’s exposure to this religious group: a moment’s exchange, if that.

The amusing new film The Yankles should change that relationship and should be required viewing as a glimpse into this seemingly closed sect’s mindset.

After all, these devout Jews inhabit our southern city borders, from Santa Monica Boulevard to La Brea to Robertson Boulevard. They seem, well, odd to most of us, insulated from modern life and the urban bustle of the West Side.

To sound like a critic for a moment, half way through The Yankles I realized I had a big grin on my face, mixed with outright laughter and the occasional tear. The Yankles is a home run!

I detest reviewers who regurgitate the story to the reader, revealing plot points and leaving little to the imagination, so I won’t bore with too much detail.

The film gets you from the get-go, opening with a mercifully narration-free back story montage that sets the scene for the contemporary action. Much of the dramedy is set in a Yeshiva, or Orthodox seminary, with recurring scenes of road games and apartments and ballgame and social worker offices.


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