Twenty-seven year-old female. Single. Jewish. Certified Public Accountant. Works with brother. Lives with grieving widower father. Searching for love.
That’s the premise for “Dorfman In Love.” Sounds a bit clichÃ©d, which it is, down to listening to the father, played by Elliott Gould, calling just about everything around him “farkakte”- crappy! Then this young woman leaves the San Fernando Valley and temporarily moves to downtown Los Angeles, where she finds some independence, multiculturalism, possible romance – and herself. “I Am Woman,” circa 2013.
As the film begins, you don’t know what to make of it. Come on! Can a movie be so trite? How long do I have to sit through this one? When am I going to see the hall of mirrors? The hutch with the sterling silver menorahs? The “Goodbye Columbus” wedding scene?
But if you simply take your seat and let the film take you in, you find yourself getting a cute, whimsical look at a twentysomething trying to find herself as she leaves behind suburbia, her sense of what the man of her dreams should be, and her need to care for everyone around her but herself.
“Dorfman in Love” is a 21st-century satire about a protected Jewish child who has to leave home and find herself. In his largely autobiographical 1976 film, “Next Stop Greenwich Village,” Paul Mazursky told the story of the Jewish boy who leaves Brooklyn for Manhattan, always looking over his shoulder for fear that his mom, played by the great Shelley Winters, was lurking in the shadows. As he left home, he put his yarmulke in his bureau drawer and walked out the door. Now, a full generation later, writer Wendy Kout and director Brad Leong have Deb leave the Valley simply because her brother’s friend, the man with whom she believes she is madly in love, needs someone to apartment-sit and care for his cat. Deb was raised to be her family’s caretaker, and with her mom’s death, she takes total hold of that role, caring for her father. But Dad is quite capable of caring for himself, and it is time she goes her own way. But will Dad be following, waiting in the shadows?
Up until now, Deb has been a total wimp, caring for her brother’s accounting business while he lingers on the golf course and tending to Dad’s every wish. Now another man turns to her for help, so upon arriving at her temporary quarters in downtown L.A., she begins to clean, paint, and decorate the apartment for this “man of her dreams” while he is away. That is who she is, ready to do whatever a man asks of her. But there is one special moment, when a Polish woman calls her a “Jewish accountant” and she hears it as an anti-Semitic slur. At that moment she is strong, ready as a proud Jew to take on the offender.
In 1976, Mazursky’s Lenny left his kippah in the drawer; in 2013, Deb wears her Jewishness with great pride.
The film offers no great surprises or plot twists, just a humorous glimpse at bustling Los Angeles and the life of a woman finally getting to know herself. There are moments when you almost gag at hearing some of the drivel, but then you break out into laughter at lines that are so ridiculous that they wind up being quite funny. Elliott Gould plays the cranky Jewish suburban widower with such absence of nuance that I found his portrayal quite exceptionable. Sara Rue does a remarkable job as the somewhat zaftik and Deb Dorfman. Haaz Sleiman, whom you may remember from the film “The Visitor,” is solid as Cookie, the neighbor who helps Deb find herself.
“Dorfman In Love” is playing at Cinema Village in Manhattan and on Pay-Per-View.