When More Is Less

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Friday, October 26, 2007

"O Jerusalem," based on a 1972 book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, makes the mistake of including too sweeping a scope in too small a movie and with too few resources.

The movie, which Elie Chouraqui directed and wrote with Didier Le P┬┐cheur, tries to encapsulate the creation of Israel in 100 minutes: its World War II status under British protection, the United Nations vote that divided Palestine into two nations, the war that followed and the ascension of Israeli leaders David Ben-Gurion (Ian Holm) and Golda Meir (Tovah Feldshuh), just to name a few chapters. But with so many events to include, the film is reduced to banalized highlights, making "O Jerusalem" seem like the CliffsNotes version of the history of Israel.

Chouraqui attempts to personalize the film by centering the story on two fictionalized friends: a Jewish American soldier named Bobby Goldman (J.J. Feild) and Said Chahine (Said Taghmaoui), a Palestinian he has befriended in New York. But with so many external events to cover, the filmmakers never have time to give either character affecting dimension. They are too obviously symbols who, when war breaks out, inevitably find themselves face to face during a street battle. It's hard to take the film seriously with this and other contrivances, including a hokey music score, dialogue designed solely to give us historical information and the movie's ultimate howler: Holm's disheveled wig, which unintentionally suggests a revolutionary Phyllis Diller.

-- Desson Thomson

O Jerusalem R, 103 minutes Contains battlefield violence. At AMC Loews Shirlington and AMC Loews Dupont. O Jerusalem R, 103 minutes Contains battlefield violence. At AMC Loews Shirlington and AMC Loews Dupont.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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