In brief: ‘Keeping the Faith’ and ‘Where the Money Is’

Keeping the Faith feels like it started out in a script conference as the setup to a bad joke about a rabbi and a priest. It ends up that way, too. Edward Norton, who also directed, is the hotshot Upper West Side priest playing opposite Ben Stiller’s hotshot Upper West Side rabbi. Friends since childhood, they reconnect with a heartthrob (Jenna Elfman), now a corporate honcho, they haven’t seen since she moved away in eighth grade. Romantic triangulations ensue, and as much as Norton wants us to think Noël Coward, it’s Aaron Spelling who comes to mind. The filmmakers seem to be aware of this, too: Spelling’s name is even invoked at one point, as if that lets them off the hook. In the past, Norton has given his average-guyness an edgy allure, and his choice of acting roles has often been daring. Why he would want to kick off his directing career with this ecumenical dud, God only knows… . Far be it from me to give Paul Newman career advice, but here goes anyway: Don’t be autumnal. In Where the Money Is, he plays a jailed bank robber who cons his way into a nursing home and, aided by an attendant (Linda Fiorentino) and her husband (Dermot Mulroney), pulls off a fresh scam. The film, to its detriment, draws wistfully on our memories of The Hustler and The Sting. Graceful retirement in an actor can be ennobling; so can a rage against the dying of the light. It’s this wan, winsome middle ground that doesn’t cut it.

In brief: ‘Keeping the Faith’ and ‘Where the […]