Movie Magazine International

A Price Above Rubies

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

We can thank God that in her infinite wisdom and mercy Tinseltown's current fascination for Jewish mysticism as expressed on the big screen in, "A Price above Rubies," doesn't feature a flaming tree of life. Nor are the sephiroth exploding with lasers subbing for the divine light emanating from a computer generated ain soph.

I bet those of you out there unfamiliar with kabbalah, that don't know a sephiroth from a deviated septum are waiting for an explanation. Well, I'm going to be like this film, which will not clue you in about the arcana of the proceedings. If you didn't walk in the door with a working knowledge of orthodox Judaism, this film won't enlighten you. Though, if you pay attention, you will figure out that men and women have definite roles and that bucking the system to find personal fulfillment will get you ostracized. Though, paradoxically, it can also let in some metaphysical light, which is to say true wisdom.

The phrase "a price above rubies" is a traditional description for a virtuous woman, as in her worth is. I tell you this, because the film won't, though, it will use the imagery. The woman in question is Sonia, played by Renee Zellweger an actress whose talent is definitely above rubies. She's trapped in a traditional orthodox marriage to a religious scholar on his way to becoming a holy man. As a stifled housewife with a head for business, she's on her way to a nervous breakdown. These unlikely partners probably ended up together through the offices of a professional matchmaker. I tell you this, because, once again, the film won't. And God forbid we should be given any explanation, much less dramatic buildup so that when Sonia marches onto the floor of the synagogue, we can all understand what a taboo she is breaking and thrill to her daring.

Sonia finds her own salvation by rebelling with the mystical help of her brother, who died as a child, and a mysterious woman who may or may not be her grandmother, also long dead and rumored to be the devil's niece. Is "A Price above Rubies" really saying that a woman who goes her own way is the spawn of Satan? I hope not. The Jewish devil and the Christian devil aren't exactly the same thing. But, you guessed it, the film doesn't explain that. And that's a sin.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 4/1/98

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