Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999

"Judy Berlin"

by David Sterritt

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I grew up two small towns away from Babylon, the Long Island suburb where "Judy Berlin" takes place, so I enjoyed the accurate details that punctuate its understated portrait of nice, boring people leading lives of quiet desperation in a place so godforsaken that the sun forgets to reappear after what's supposed to be an ordinary solar eclipse. Also enjoyable are the performances by a cast associated largely with the New York stage: Madeline Kahn as a ditzy homemaker, Bob Dishy as her vaguely restless husband, Barbara Barrie as a schoolteacher with personal problems, Anne Meara and Julie Kavner (of "The Simpsons" fame) as two of the painfully ordinary people on the periphery of her life. It's a tiny film but a sharply observed one, marking director Eric Mendelsohn as a talent to be watched.

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