Eye For Film >> Movies >> Judy Berlin (1997) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
You might think that suburban alienation has been done to death. You would be wrong. Eric Mendelsohn's debut as writer/director is a little gem.
The good people of Babylon have a communication problem. They are good and they are people, but somehow remain so far from each other that the concept of closeness becomes blurred.
The wife (Madeline Kahn) of the high school principal worries about a life she finds baffling in its absurdity, not that she allows boredom to interfere with her quest to be 16 again. Wandering alone through leafy avenues in the grey light of a sudden eclipse, she discovers the secret: "It's really all made up."
If suburbia was a parallel universe, more interesting things would happen. Thirty-year-old David (Aaron Harnick), the principal's son, is at home having a nervous breakdown. His mother has already gone into that place where what you said 10 minutes ago comes back as new. David can't find the key. He is lost inside a vacuum.
Judy Berlin (Edie Falco), is leaving for the coast. She wants to become an actress. She doesn't talk, she gushes. Her mother (Barbara Barrie) has been a teacher at the high school so long she would blush if you reminded her. She loves the principal (Bob Dishy), not that anything will ever come of it. She has a mind that stretches beyond flannel. That's rare in Babylon.
Shot in black-and-white, with a wonderful cast, the film is a celebration of middle-class miasma. People go to the suburbs for their kids and security. When the kids leave there is still security, which becomes vapid, because isolation is a trap.
David spends the day of the eclipse with Judy. He knows she's leaving, she knows she's leaving. That's the way it is. Hopeless. Everyone, in their own way, is searching.
Mendelsohn discovers what he needs to know: you have to be mad to live here.Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2001