Jews in the News: Jean Hanff Korelitz, Susanne Bier, and Chloe Fineman

A Thriller, a Dramedy, a New Take on an Oldie, and Fineman

 “The Undoing” is a 6-episode HBO mini-series that begins on Sunday, Oct. 25. It is based on “You Should Have Known”, a 2014 novel by JEAN HANFF KORELITZ, 59. Basic plot: the main character in the series is Grace Reinhardt Fraser (Nicole Kidman), a successful therapist. Just before her first book is to be published, a series of very bad things happen to Grace. (Hugh Grant plays Dr. Jonathan Fraser, Grace’s husband. Donald Sutherland co-stars as Grace’s father, Franklin Reinhardt.)

In the novel, Grace is described as the secular child of secular Jewish parents. Grace’s husband in the novel is Dr. Jonathan Sachs, who is supposed to be Jewish, too.  When a fictional Jewish character (Sachs), is given a “WASPy” last name (Fraser), I usually think that the producers didn’t want a “too Jewish” film or series. However, without much spoiling things, let me just say that Dr. Jonathan is not a nice guy. So, giving him the last name “Fraser” may have been intended as a “good thing” for the Jewish community.  

All six episodes were directed by SUSANNE BIER, 60, a Danish Jew.  Her career has soared in the last decade, with an Oscar for the best foreign language film (“In A Better World”, 2011) and an Emmy for “The Night Manager” (2019), a limited series.

“On the Rocks,” is a “dramedy” which opened in a few theaters on Oct. 2 (in order to eligible for Oscars) and begins streaming on Apple Plus on Oct. 23. Reviews were mostly favorable, with a few raves. But there were some thumbs-down by respected critics.

RASHIDA JONES, 44, co-stars as a wife who suspects her husband (Marlon Wayans) is cheating. Jones’ father (Bill Murray) insists they investigate. The supporting cast includes JENNY SLATE, 38, and BARBARA BAIN, 89 (some readers may remember Bain as a co-star of “Mission Impossible”, the ‘60s TV series. Most of her “MI” scenes were with the late MARTIN LANDAU, then her real-life husband).

Here’s another oldie in the news: In the ‘60s, the Ronettes were one of the most popular of the many “girl groups.” They had many hits, but best remembered is “Be My Baby”. The lead singer was RONNIE BENNETT SPECTOR, now 77. She was backed by her sister and a cousin. Ronnie’s father was Irish-American and her mother was African-American and Native American.

Ronnie’s good luck and misfortune was PHIL SPECTOR, now 80. He is now serving a life sentence for a senseless 2003 murder. Spector was a great record producer and songwriter who created the fabulous “full” sound on the Ronettes’ records. But he was always crazy. After they wed in 1968, he literally imprisoned Ronnie in their home. In 1971, she found a way to escape the Spector mansion. She’s had a reasonably good career since then.

All this makes for good drama and it was just announced that Zendaya, 24, an actress who just won an Emmy for “Euphoria”, will play Spector in an upcoming film called “Be My Baby.” Like Ronnie, Zendaya is of mixed background (white mother, African-American father).

 In 1982, Ronnie married her manager and present husband, JONATHAN GREENFIELD, now 77ish, and they have two grown children.  A Jewish journalist friend who covers the oldies beat tells me that Ronnie has identified herself as Jewish in several interviews he’s done with her. He simply doesn’t know if she formally converted to Judaism.

Here’s a weird coda: Ronnie would never be mistaken for Sen. Kamala Harris, but the two once looked enough alike that they could be sisters. Just use these terms to search for a video on Youtube: “Ronnie Spector, Sha-Na-Na.” Ronnie sang on the “Sha-Na-Na” TV show in the early ‘70s. She was then at the peak of her “Kamala look.”

Or click here for video: Ronnie Sings on Sha Na Na

CHLOE FINEMAN, 32, joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” last year, and emerged as the show’s break-out star. She has done great impressions of TIMOTHEE CHALAMENT, 24, Drew Barrymore, and Reese Witherspoon. I long knew she attended a Jewish day camp, but she also referred to herself as “1/2 Wasp” (referencing her mother). So, what’s the story? Well, here’s what she told the “Washington Post” on Sept. 29: “I have a really funny Jewish family. My dad is hilarious and extremely unfiltered.”

I think it’s quite clear, now, that Fineman identifies as Jewish.  Trust me, in time we’ll get even more details. It’s certainly possible that Fineman's mother is a Jew-By-Choice (like the mothers of comic actresses AMY SCHUMER, 39, and PAMELA ADLON, 54).


Add Comment