Review: The Barmitzvah Boy

By Jenni Frazer, November 9, 2009

Dir. Michael Tuchner | UK | 1976 | 75 mins | English

Adrienne Posta floated downstairs in her pink walkabout hairdryer mobcap, and it was as though the last 33 years had never existed.

To a collective sigh from the audience, Jack Rosenthal's iconic comedy drama, The Barmitzvah Boy, decorated the UK Jewish Film Festival's 13th year like a Black Forest Vacherin.

It is arguably among the funniest and finest depictions of the Anglo-Jewish condition. Rosenthal's unerring ear for dialogue — "Dralon grows on trees?" rhetorically snaps Maria Charles' wonderful mother Rita to the hapless potential barmitzvah boy, Elliot Green (Jeremy Steyn) — and the way in which the terrific cast inhabit their characters with pin-sharp timing, give Barmitzvah Boy a timeless enjoyment.

From Cyril Shaps' awful, cheekpinching grandfather ("When you're happy, I'm happy. What should I be?") to Pamela Manson's hairdresser Sylvia, from Jonathan Lynn's shlemiel boyfriend Harold to Bernard Spears' can't-resist-a-cabfare-even-on-Shabbat Victor, the actors are evidently having a fabulous time. Certainly, on this screening on Remembrance Sunday, age has not withered it.

The same cannot be said of the print, which looks like someone's dodgy home movie of — well, their barmitzvah.

Last updated: 2:58pm, February 18 2011