Keeping the Faith

Keeping the Faith (12)

ANYONE familiar with the work of rising star Edward Norton will find this, his directing debut, something of a puzzle.

Keeping the Faith is a bizarre choice for someone of Norton’s undoubted talents – a bitty comedy of manners, sexual mores and religion in which childhood pals grow up to become a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi, respectively, and then fall in love with the girl who made up the other third of their childhood trio.

It’s something which, perhaps, may have worked better under the all-seeing comedy eye of Woody Allen, or maybe even Steve Martin when he was on top form.

So it’s surprising to see the highly versatile star of Primal Fear (stuttering killer), American History X (charismatic right-wing hooligan), Fight Club (wimpy urban terrorist) and Everyone Says I Love You (lovestruck youth) taking the reins for this off-kilter comedy.

Perhaps Norton’s real reason in helming Keeping the Faith was that it gave him the chance to test his comedic talents opposite Ben Stiller (the toothy nerd with his penis caught in his zip in There’s Something About Mary) while exploring some of the more restrictive elements of two different religions.

As Rabbi Jake and Fr Brian Finn, Stiller and Norton are two hip young men of god devoted to their respective faiths and each other.

Each has a working knowledge of the other’s way of life and working life. The spanner in the works arrives in the form of gorgeous blonde Anna Riley (Jenna Elfman), with whom Stiller sleeps despite the fact she’s a gentile.

While Norton and Stiller enjoy the gags and constantly attempt to outdo each other, the film’s main message is one of tolerance – or, rather, the intolerance and blinkered existence of one form of religion against another.

Occasionally hilarious, frequently borderline offensive (particularly to devoted Jews and Catholics), Keeping the Faith is a peculiar blend of love triangle, comedy and religion under the microscope.

Most of the time it works, but there are moments of cringeworthy observational humour and socio-religious commentary which slow the action and trip up the plot.

See it for Norton and Stiller’s double act, but prepare to be mildly outraged if you belong to either faith.

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