I am very ready for Netflix finally coming to Canada later this year. I hope I will not have an experience like A Price Above Rubies that I had last night. I was at Blockbuster, even though there were countless films to watch at home, and I had The Maid and was trying to find a second title. I was lured by Julianna Margulies and a positive review from Roger Ebert. Renée Zellweger should have been an indication to put it back on the shelf. The film tries so hard to be about morality within the Hasidic community but Boaz Yakin's 1998 films is superficial and cliched. I wanted to turn it off after twenty minutes. It is his second feature film after the critically acclaimed Fresh (1994) and he followed A Price Above Rubies with Remember the Titans (2000), Uptown Girls (2003) and Death in Love (2008). I feel like I was cheated because the synopsis on the back of the DVD did not indicate it was a period piece nor did it mention the extent of the religious themes. I was anticipating a provocative and dramatic film about a woman seeking true passion. I am not the biggest fan of Renée Zellweger and often she is my least favourite part of a film, especially in her Academy Award-nominated performance in Chicago and her Oscar-winning role in Cold Mountain. On the other hand, Julianna Margulies is a wonderful actress and was the best part of ER and The Good Wife on television. A Price Above Rubies is labored, uninteresting and tries too hard to offer a perspective on society without giving the audience the necessary insight into the society. There is a reason I had never heard of A Price Above Rubies until seeing it on the shelf.
Sonia (Renée Zellweger) married Mendel Horowitz (Glenn Fitzgerald) through an arranged marriage. Mendel is a very devout Hasidic Jew who has been appointed to a prestigious Yeshiva in Brooklyn. He puts so much effort into his studies that he is unable and unwilling to give Sonia the attention she craves. Even after giving birth to a child Sonia still does not feel like a member of her husband's society. Mendel's family is very welcoming to Sonia and his sister Rachel (Julianna Margulies) often tends to the baby and his brother Sender (Christopher Eccleston) offers her a job at his jewelery store. Sonia discovers that Sender is also a free spirit and the two begin an affair. Sender encourages her independence and Sonia begins to flourish though she becomes more neglectful of her duties at home. Her work leads her to a Puerto Rican jewelry designer named Ramon (Allen Payne) and this relationship begins to threaten Sonia's private and professional lives.
As I consider the film and revisit the story I have discovered that A Price Above Rubies has an interesting plot even if none of it was evident when I watched it. The film lacks the necessary emotion and intensity that a story of this nature requires. The entire film felt like a melodrama with laboured acting and pacing. Several reviews that I have read have praised Renée Zellweger's performance, including Roger Ebert. In his review Ebert talks about how the Hasidic community is treated as a mere backdrop for Sonia's story. It is a shame that a film that depends so much on religion could ignore it so completely. I know next to nothing about Hasidic Judaism and probably know even less after viewing A Price Above Rubies. It has been so long since I have disliked a film so intensely... well at least since I saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I could never recommend this film and I will only ask that you pretend this film was never made.
My rating: 1 star out of 4.