FOCUS

A Liberal Indictment of Christian America?

Content -3
Quality
None Light Moderate Heavy
Language        
Violence        
Sex        
Nudity        

Release Date: October 19, 2001

Starring: William H. Macy, Laura Dern,
David Paymer, & Michael Lee
“Meat Loaf” Aday

Genre: Drama

Audience: Older teenagers & adults

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 100 minutes

Distributor: Paramount Classics/Paramount

Director: Neal Slavin

Executive Producer: Martin Geller, Neil
O’Connor, Jamie Rizzo, &
Anita Slavin

Producer: Robert A. Miller & Michael R.
Blomberg

Writer: Kendrew Lascelles

Address Comments To:

David Dinerstein & Ruth Vitale
Co-Presidents
Paramount Classics
A Division of Paramount Pictures
5555 Melrose Avenue
Chevalier Building
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: (323) 956-2000
Fax: (323) 862-1012
Website: www.paramountclassics.com

Content:

(PaPa, BB, AbAb, APAP, LL, VV, S, A, D, M) Mixed pagan worldview takes a pro-Jewish, strongly moral stand against fascism & shows a nominal Christian husband & his wife who are forced to take a stand against Anti-Semitism, but, in the end, they agree to be identified as Jewish in a weird symbolic ending that seems to be anti-Christian in a very subtle, if not insidious, way, plus the only Christian preacher shown is a rabid, Anti-Semitic Roman Catholic priest about whom one of the protagonists says at least he helped her believe in God again & movie does not paint a very favorable picture of the United States; at least 1 mild obscenity, 4 strong profanities & 8 mild profanities, plus some ethnic & religious slurs; wakened, scared man starts to watch from his window as another man punches a woman then takes her behind a car & apparently rapes & beats her, threats of violence, man beaten up & tossed out of a meeting, fascists dump garbage on people’s yards & sidewalks, & two men beat off fascist gang with baseball bats; implied rape; no nudity but people in underwear; alcohol use; smoking; and, bullying.


Summary:

William H. Macy and Laura Dern star in FOCUS as a married couple who run into an Anti-Semitic fascist gang in the United States during World War II. Based on a novel by playwright Arthur Miller (DEATH OF A SALESMAN), FOCUS tells a well-acted tale of taking a courageous stand against evil, but the movie is plagued with a mixed pagan worldview that seems to be anti-Christian and anti-American.


Review:

Based on playwright Arthur Miller’s first novel, FOCUS presents a strange combination of anti-Christian paganism and anti-fascist propaganda that nevertheless tells a dramatic story of moral courage in the face of ignorant prejudice.
William H. Macy stars in FOCUS as a mild-mannered white collar worker, Lawrence Newman, who lives in a white neighborhood in New York City during World War II. He watches worryingly as some of his neighbors organize against the Jewish shop owner who’s moved into the corner store. Lawrence gets new glasses and comes home with a sexy, outspoken wife. Gertrude. The neighbors and strangers they meet begin to think the couple are really Jewish, even though they nominally belong to Christian denominations. When their home and lives are threatened, Lawrence and Gertrude must decide whether to take a stand against the American Anti-Semitism around them. The movie ends on a weird, symbolic note as Lawrence and Gertrude, in response to a policeman’s question, agree to say that they’re “one of them.”
FOCUS tells a well-acted tale of taking a courageous stand against evil. Macy and Dern are terrific as Lawrence and Gertrude, as is David Paymer and Michael Lee Aday (a.k.a. the pop singer “Meat Loaf”) as the Jewish shop owner and the Newmans’ next-door neighbor.
The story in FOCUS is a bit one-dimensional, however. For instance, most of its fascist villains are cardboard characters rather than real human beings. This is not just an aesthetic problem, however. It’s also a moral and theological problem, because the movie is plagued by an apparent liberal, pagan attitude that seems to be anti-Christian and anti-American. Thus, the only Christian preacher in FOCUS happens to be a rabidly Anti-Semitic Roman Catholic priest, and America seems to be awash with a virulent, cruel form of Anti-Semitism. In the end, the nominal Christian heroes in this piece seem to forego any identification whatsoever with Christianity, which leaves a very distasteful feeling within this Christian, who has nothing but respect, love and compassion for Jewish people.
FOCUS also is a very theatrical piece, which makes sense considering that the original novel on which it is based was written by Arthur Miller, who wrote the classic play DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Though photographed brilliantly, this theatrical quality undercuts the cinematic experience of watching FOCUS.
With a little effort, the filmmakers could have overcome all of these problems. Movies like FOCUS which try to deliver socio-political commentary work better if they make their targets less one-dimensional. Otherwise, they seem more like propaganda than great pieces of art.


In Brief:

William H. Macy stars in FOCUS as a mild-mannered white collar worker, Lawrence Newman, who lives in New York City during World War II. He watches worryingly as some of his neighbors organize against the Jewish shop owner of the corner store. Lawrence gets new glasses and comes home with a sexy, outspoken wife. Gertrude, played by Laura Dern. The neighbors and strangers they meet begin to think the couple are really Jewish, even though they nominally belong to Christian denominations. When their home and lives are threatened, Lawrence and Gertrude must decide whether to take a stand against the American Anti-Semitism around them. The movie ends on a weird, symbolic note as Lawrence and Gertrude, in response to a policeman’s question, agree to say that they’re “one of them.”
FOCUS tells a well-acted tale of taking a courageous stand against evil. Macy and Dern are terrific as Lawrence and Gertrude. The story in FOCUS is a bit one-dimensional, however. For instance, its fascist villains are cardboard characters rather than real human beings. Worse, however, is the fact that the movie is plagued by an apparently liberal, pagan attitude that seems to be anti-Christian and anti-American.