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Big Screen | "Holy," "Man" Offer Jesse Eisenberg Double Feature

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 19, 2010 at 3:43AM

American indie staple Jesse Eisenberg is the main opening attraction at art houses this weekend - starring in not one but two debuting films: Kevin Asch's Sundance premiere "Holy Rollers" and Brian Koppelman and David Levien's Toronto alum "Solitary Man." Both received generally mixed reviews and lead a particularly slow summer weekend for the specialty market that also sees the releases of Anurag Basu's Bollywood film "Kites," Mia Hansen-Løve's critically acclaimed "Father of My Children," François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard-focused doc "Two In The Wave," Marshall Curry's Tribeca fave "Racing Dreams," and Florian Gallenberger's "John Rabe."
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Big Screen | "Holy," "Man" Offer Jesse Eisenberg Double Feature
A scene from Kevin Asch's "Holy Rollers."

American indie staple Jesse Eisenberg is the main opening attraction at art houses this weekend - starring in not one but two debuting films: Kevin Asch's Sundance premiere "Holy Rollers" and Brian Koppelman and David Levien's Toronto alum "Solitary Man." Both received generally mixed reviews and lead a particularly slow summer weekend for the specialty market that also sees the releases of Anurag Basu's Bollywood film "Kites," Mia Hansen-Løve's critically acclaimed "Father of My Children," François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard-focused doc "Two In The Wave," Marshall Curry's Tribeca fave "Racing Dreams," and Florian Gallenberger's "John Rabe."

"Holy Rollers" - which stars Eisenberg as a Hasidic Jew smuggling Ecstasy between Amsterdam and New York in the late ’90s - is based loosely on a true story. Averaging a C+ on criticWIRE, the film certainly seemed to have admirable qualities - but critics felt overall it missed the mark.

Reviewing the film in Sundance, The Film Experience's Nat Rogers said "there's a certain punch to a couple of the performances and the milieu is interesting, but I wish the movie were stronger. It lacks a certain urgency that's necessary for crime dramas (even non-violent ones like this) but the religious backdrop was refreshing."

The Village Voice's Andrew Schenker was similarly disappointed. "Failing to generate either excitement as a crime story or credibility as a morality play," he writes, "the film ultimately confirms the traditional values that helped push its confused lead to the brink of damnation in the first place."

Justin Chang of Variety is somewhat more positive, calling Asch's first feature "intelligent" and "respectable," but also finding it "curiously muted in tone and impact, never fully catching the viewer up in either its crime saga or its account of individual rebellion within an insular religious community." New York Magazine's David Edelstein borders on a full-on positive review, saying the film "fuses a somber, old-world palette with a jittery urban unease—a good mix of tones. It’s also wonderfully acted."

Edelstein reviewed "Rollers" alongside "Solitary Man," which features Eisenberg in a much less prominent role. Instead, its more or less Michael Douglas' show. Douglas stars as a man who once ruled a car-dealership empire but now a business scandal has cost him his income and his marriage (to Nancy, played by Susan Sarandon).

Comparing it to "Rollers," Edelstein writes that, like that film, "Solitary Man" is "another routine morality play, this time the aging-Lothario-gets-his-comeuppance number. But it’s smoothly written and smartly paced, and Michael Douglas is riveting."

Time Out New York's David Fear and The Village Voice's Melissa Anderson also enjoyed the work. Fear called it "a truly impressive portrait of self-destructive, smooth-talking alpha males, and a testament to an actor who waltzes across that Peter Pan–syndrome tightrope with the greatest of sleaze," while a slightly more cautious Anderson notes "directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien, frequent writing partners who scripted Steven Soderbergh's 'The Girlfriend Experience,' have here created The Michael Douglas Experience; whether you respond to the material depends largely on how much you enjoy the actor lazily riffing on the oily creatures of his past."

The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt is less thrilled. He says that while "its attractive cast may help get an audience, they will surely puzzle over such a downward-spiraling story that lacks inner logic."

Check out links to each film's indieWIRE page as well as other films opening this weekend, plus recent theatrical releases below. They include synopses, trailers, and a variety of criticWIRE grades and links to reviews.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Father of My Children (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

John Rabe (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Two In The Wave (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Solitary Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Holy Rollers (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Perrier's Bounty (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Kites (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: no ratings yet

Racing Dreams (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: no ratings yet

criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Exit Through The Gift Shop (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

The Oath (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Women Without Men (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Please Give (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

CASINO JACK and the United States of Money (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Best Worst Movie (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Looking For Eric (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Daddy Longlegs (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Mother and Child (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Harry Brown (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Babies (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Human Centipede (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Trash Humpers (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

This article is related to: In Theaters





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