When most people think of Edward Norton, they think “Fight Club,” “American History X,” or perhaps his brief stint as “The Incredible Hulk.” In other words, I doubt many people would immediately classify him as a funny, light entertainer (though “Moonrise Kingdom” could change a few minds). But take a look at Norton’s résumé and you will see that his only directorial venture was, in fact, a comedy!
His “Keeping the Faith,” my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” is a delightful romantic comedy of interfaith understanding and rivalry. Norton plays Brian Finn, whose best friend growing up in New York is Ben Stiller’s Jake Schram. Fast forward to adulthood, Brian becomes a Catholic priest, and Jake is a Jewish rabbi. Still buddies, they find hilarious commonalities between their similar positions in different religions.
But their friendship gets a shock when Jenna Elfman’s Anna, a dreamgirl for both Brian and Jake back in their teenage years, moves from California back to the Big Apple. She may have disappeared long ago from their lives, but Anna picks up right where she left off with both men, rekindling an old flame that burns brighter than ever. But each men presents their own problem in terms of dating: Brian is required to be celibate as a Catholic priest, and Jake has to marry a Jewish woman (which Anna is not).
Yet in spite of the occupational challenges, both men vie for her love and affection. She’s put in the unenviable (but seemingly always optimal choice for Reese Witherspoon) situation of choosing which illicit love to pursue. I know this sounds a little bit like “This Means War,” but give it a chance. It’s heartfelt, funny, and truly sincere. Plus, it’s a movie that doesn’t shy away from having a good time with religion while also taking it totally seriously. Why Edward Norton stopped directing after “Keeping the Faith” is beyond me.