Set in 1998, we are introduced to the very Jewish society Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg) is at the heart of. Searching for a higher purpose than working for his father, Sam is unsure of his path and whether to train as a Rabbi. With Sam naïve about the world he inhabits, next-door neighbour Yosef (Justin Bartha) is his polar opposite. Manipulating this naivety and turning Sam into his puppet, when Sam finally realises what he’s been dragged into, it’s too little too late.
Antonio Macia’s script effortlessly handles the different genres within the film well, with the initial back-and-forth between best friends Sam and Leon seemingly straight out of a Woody Allen film. Fast paced, intelligent and realistic, there are some beautifully subtle comic touches and the film owes a lot to Macia for letting Eisenberg do what Eisenberg does best – talking.
Time spent in Amsterdam does not slow the film and hard man Jackie (Danny A. Abeckaser) and girlfriend Rachel (Ari Graynor) take Sam under their wing, exposing him to an entirely alien way of life. Although it shouldn’t be, watching Sam battle with his faith is very enjoyable. From accidental kisses to his first drop of alcohol, it’s hard not to feel happy for twenty-year-old Sam Gold.
Always doing something and never remaining still, Eisenberg is fascinating to watch and it’s a great deal of fun hearing him ramble on – only a snippet of his Zuckerberg here, however. He brings a great deal of humility to Sam and handles his slowly changing behaviour with ease. It’s good to see Justin Bartha finally have a meatier and more challenging role than plain, nice Doug and he shows more personality in one line than he ever had the opportunity to in The Hangover.
An odd mishmash of family drama and quirky comedy, the film skips quite happily between New York and Amsterdam and is at times rather sad. All too easy to pin down as a coming-of-age celebration, ultimately that’s what it is. With the majority of the film focused on what is forbidden, Holy Rollers shows just how easily trust – especially within families – can be broken.
- Director and cast commentary with Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Bartha
- Deleted, Extended and Expanded Scenes
- UK Exclusive Interview with Jesse Eisenberg
- Interview with Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Bartha
- Coming Attractions