dir. John Goldschmidt
written by: Jonathan Benson. Jez Freedman
starring: Jonathan Pryce, Jerome Holder, Pauline Collins, Philip Davis, Ian Hart
2 out of 4 stars
Tiny, independent films regarding faith and marijuana are in desperately short supply. Capitalizing on the intersection are the creators behind Dough, a British comedy making its way across the US. Director John Goldschmidt and writers Jonathan Benson and Jez Freedman developed a story surrounding the unlikely partnership of a Kosher baker and the young Muslim-African refugee he takes for an apprentice.
In a rapidly changing, traditionally Jewish neighborhood in England, Nat (Jonathan Pryce) is the final generation in his family interested in maintaining his century’s old Kosher bakery among the rapidly encroaching chains diminishing his business. After his assistant baker leaves for his better paying competition, grumpy Nat hires his cleaning woman’s son Ayyash (Jerome Holder) who seems incapable of finding work elsewhere. So begins the clash of cultures, religion, age, family and expertise until a combination of natural talent and loads of cannabis enhance the baked goods coming from the newbie baker. Bonds are formed and tested, beliefs and prejudices are questioned, and a few laughs are had along the way.
The movie, though charming and pleasant, is jam packed with plot points, far too many for such a brief movie. The decline of a shop, immigrant life, drug use and distribution, family tradition versus the desires of children, older adult relationship, intersection of religion, big business versus family owned and operated, and that’s just mentioning some. Every few moments, we are redirected to another portion of these characters’ multifaceted issues. The screenplay is messy, but fortunately Goldschmidt handles the direction to ease any confusion. He allows everything to blend as best as possible and provide continuity, his characters maintain their characteristics even with as fast as their situations change.
Pryce is expectedly apt at playing the old Jewish baker, and Holder is respectably endearing as the troubled young man starting from scratch, obeying his religious beliefs while doing what he sees as best for his family. Holder and Pryce are challenged when at odds; there’s far too much judgment thrown about and too little learning for the rapidity of his transformation. The pair still possesses surprising chemistry despite the opposition in their character’s lives. Oscar nominee Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine) is cast as a recent widow refusing to wallow in the loss of her husband. Where the character does little of her own thinking and is primarily a catalyst in the lonely nature of hers and Nat’s position in life, Collins amps up the gusto to hilarious effect. In one of many interactions between her and Nat, Collins attempts to balance (literally on an exercise ball) her feelings for Nat and the state of their neighboring businesses. Blatantly shouting, “I’m lonely,” and running out of the room, Collins produces a simple but moving laugh that showcases Collin’s talent, even provided limited writing.
Entirely forgettable, Dough is still a cute movie with an interesting premise. With a rather original concept for a rather overdone construct, this one faltered on a “too much with too little” production. A handy story editor would have aided this troubled film well, but what we received was unchallenging but not unwelcome.