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Sundance movie review: Jewish comedy 'Between the Temples' inclusive for all

Jason Schwartzman and Carol Kane star in "Between the Temples." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Jason Schwartzman and Carol Kane star in "Between the Temples." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Between the Temples, which screened online at the Sundance Film Festival, follows Cha Cha Real Smooth, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah and Keeping Up with the Steins as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah comedy.

It may not always be laugh-out-loud funny, but the light humor is consistent. Practicing Jews especially will appreciate the references.

Ben Gottlieb (Jason Schwartzman) is a cantor who lost his wife a year ago, and his voice because of his grief. He meets his old music teacher, Carla O'Conner (Carol Kane) in a karaoke bar drowning his sorrows.

Carla asks Benjamin to prepare her for a Bar Mitzvah. She married a non-Jew but her maiden name was Kessler. She is part Jewish but never had a Bat Mitzvah when she turned 13.

Ben's relationship with Carla is sweet and funny. He teaches her Hebrew pronunciation, including all the throat sounds.

Nathan Silver co-wrote and directed "Between the Temples." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Nathan Silver co-wrote and directed "Between the Temples." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

There are some culture clashes as Carol invites Ben for lunch not knowing the rules of kosher cuisine. That leads to a classic spit take.

A rabbi (Robert Smigel) putting golf balls into a shofar will still be funny to Gentiles who recognize he's using a religious artifact as a putting hole. But, members of the tribe will find it especially funny given the shofar's religious significance.

Dolly De Leon plays a woman meddling in a cantor's love life in "Between the Temples." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Dolly De Leon plays a woman meddling in a cantor's love life in "Between the Temples." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

In his soul-searching, Ben has a humorously awkward conversation with a priest asking philosophical questions. Ben also has a mother (Caroline Aaron) and family friend (Dolly de Leon) trying to fix him up as Jewish mothers are wont to do.

They go so far as to make a JDate profile for him which is a very modern form of matchmaking. Ben goes with it, though his best prospect is Gabby (Madeline Weinstein), whom he meets organically.

Carol Kane plays a woman who still wants to have a Bat Mitzvah. File Photo by Christine Chew/UPI
Carol Kane plays a woman who still wants to have a Bat Mitzvah. File Photo by Christine Chew/UPI

Between the Temples is equal parts comedy about Jewish traditions and dramedy about universal turning points in one's life. Both parts work well and this film is sure to find an audience after Sundance.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

Jason Schwartzman plays a cantor in "Between the Temples." File Photo by Gabriele Holtermann/UPI
Jason Schwartzman plays a cantor in "Between the Temples." File Photo by Gabriele Holtermann/UPI