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Monday, April 22, 2019

THE GLIKSMANS -- Movie Review by Porfle

Sometimes one of these low-budget indy films will turn out to be something really unexpected. And if you're lucky, as in the case of THE GLIKSMANS (2018), it's an unexpected pleasure.

Not that this story of an elderly, middle-class Jewish couple living on the wrong end of Beverly Hills is some kind of twisty, plot-driven nailbiter or anything. And when they get out of bed at 4:30 one morning to drive into the valley to straighten out some credit card trouble at a small bank, this bickering couple's entire day turns into one long, drawn-out senior moment.

Jon Jacobs is put-upon husband Barry Gliksman, who just wants to stay home, and Bryna Weiss is marvelous as his eternally kvetching wife Barbara, who must drive because Barry's license is suspended.

She badgers him to get out of bed and hurry up in the shower, then scolds him for having eaten all the eggs so that she must have oatmeal for breakfast, and he looks on in disgust at the way she eats the oatmeal.  Then they choke down their morning pills and eventually manage to get on the road.

That's just the beginning of what one might call the slice-of-life story of their day, which abruptly escalates into a terrifying nightmare when a pickup starts following them and they imagine the absolute worst.  It almost turns into a old folks version of the car chase from BULLITT, only with lots more screaming and yelling and kvetching.

One thing leads to another and the couple get separated, with Barry wandering around the streets on foot and Barbara driving around frantically trying to find him.  Director and co-writer (with Eden Stelmach) Michael Skolnick lets the story get good and nutty, surreal in fact, when Barbara goes off on a mental  tangent (that looks something like a Mike Judge cartoon) in which she discovers Barry being held prisoner in a prison-like nursing home and forced to play Bingo.

Barry, meanwhile, seeks comfort in a Jewish temple but gets lassoed into being the tenth man in a minyan from which there is no escape.  We see flashbacks of other minyans during the past 2,000 years from which people have tried to escape without success, driving Barry to an act of desperation in which he ends up the target of a flying tackle from an overzealous rabbi. 

But there's no attempt to make any of this look like your standard comedy with mugging and slapstick and funny music. One of the joys of THE GLIKSMANS is that all of this crazy stuff just happens, like it's part of their day and nothing more, and their over-the-top reactions to this distressing chain of events are frequently hilarious. 

The cast is dotted with surprise cameos (which I'm about to ruin so skip this sentence if you don't want me to) including Cloris Leachman and Richard Portnow as the Neumans (Barbara and Barry duck into their house to escape the mysterious pickup truck), Ed Asner as their senile friend Moshe, and Ron Jeremy as a grocery story clerk.

One heart-touching aspect of the story is how, whenever one of the older characters suddenly starts coughing and can't stop, usually from swallowing something the wrong way, everyone freezes and waits to see whether it's going to be (a) nothing, or (b) the end.  Life for these elderly characters is tenuous, and in those moments of uncertain fate they're suddenly forced to face their feelings. 

Barely over 70 minutes long, THE GLIKSMANS is short and sweet, but not too sweet. In fact, it's often a pretty caustic look at what everyday life is like when you get (way) past a certain age, showing us the pros and cons of long-term married life (and long-term life itself) in ways that are frankly revealing, startling, surprising, and wonderfully amusing.

Watch the trailer


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