Jews in the News: Maya Rudolph, Iliza Schlesinger, and Jesse Andrews

Sea Monster Teens; A Dating Comedy; and a Frightening Pregnancy

“Luca”, a Disney/Pixar animated fantasy comedy film, was released for streaming on Disney+ on June 18. The film is set on the Italian Riviera in the 1950s.  Luca Paguro, the star character, is a 13-year-old sea monster curious about the world above the sea. Despite warnings that the human world is dangerous, he decides to explore a nearby Italian port with his best friend, Alberto, a teen sea monster. Alberto and Luca have the ability to disguise themselves as human.

The film centers around a growing friendship between Luca and and Giulia, a (human) Italian girl (voiced by Emma Berman, 12).  The supporting (voice) cast includes MAYA RUDOLPH, 48, as Daniela, Luca’s protective (sea monster) mother, and SACHA BARON COHEN,49, as Uncle Ugo, a sea monster who is a cousin of Luca’s.

It’s likely that Emma Berman is Jewish or ‘part’ Jewish, but as with many child actors, there is little biographical info available. She was raised in Northern California and her parents are Russian immigrants.

Luca’s original screenplay was co-written by JESSE ANDREWS, 38. He’s best known for his acclaimed debut (2012) novel, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”.  Like “Luca”, it is about three teen friends. In “Me and Earl” the teens are high school seniors, not sea monsters. Still, teens are teens and Andrews has a real gift for capturing the authentic voices and emotions of teens.

“Me and Earl and The Dying Girl’ was made into a quite good (and worth seeing) film of the same name in 2015. The novel had a lot of Jewish content (2 of the 3 main characters are Jewish). The film diminished the novel’s Jewish content, but some remained.

“Good on Paper”, an original Netflix film, began streaming on June 23. The capsule plot: for years, stand-up comic Andrea (ILIZA SHLESINGER, 38) puts her career ahead of romance. Then she meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen), a seemingly perfect guy: smart, nice, and successful. It’s not really a spoiler when I tell you that things don’t turn out well for Andrea and Dennis. Shlesinger wrote the film and she happy to tell anyone that her screenplay is based on a real-life horrific (and hilarious) dating experience she had.

Shlesinger, who has had five Netflix stand-up specials, is out of the dating pool now. In 2018, she married top chef NOAH GAULTEN, 38, in a Jewish ceremony.  

“False Pregnancy”, a new horror film, begins streaming on Hulu on June 25. Comedian Broad City” co-star ILANA GLAZER (“Broad City”) stars as Lucia “Lucy” Martin, a woman who has been trying and failing to get pregnant with her husband (Justin Theroux). Things look up when she gets an appointment with Dr. Hindle, a “star” fertility doctor (Pierce Brosnan). However, it doesn’t take long until Lucy starts getting weird vibes from Dr. Hindle. Glazer co-wrote the screenplay, which many advance reviews say is a searing commentary on the “patriarchy.

The film was made in early 2019. Glazer, 34, appeared on “The Tonight Show” on June 14 and told host Jimmy Fallon that many film festival showings had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Ironically, she said, she wasn’t pregnant when the film was made—but now is “very” pregnant in real-life (video on Youtube).  

Glazer announced last March that she and husband DAVID ROOKLIN, now 41, were expecting their first child. The couple was married in 2017. Rooklin has a doctorate in computational biology. He is the CEO of Redesign Science, a company he founded that uses computer technology to do simulations that lead to new treatment drugs. Rocklin’s father is a Pennsylvania physician. My check of family history records disclosed that his father is Jewish and his mother comes from a non-Jewish family.

That’s all I know about Mr. Rooklin. But I have to add that I was amused when I found out that he and Ms. Glazer have long lived in Brooklyn. How cool is “the handle” ‘Rooklin from Brooklyn’?

Speaking of family history research: my researcher friend Michael tells me two interesting “confirmed” things. First, an oldie: film buffs and older readers will remember actress JOAN BLONDELL (1906-1979). She combined good looks and a gift for delivering a comic line just right. Records (now) prove her father was Jewish (but not her mother). Also, it’s well known that Israeli PM NAFTALI BENNETT, 48, is the first Israeli PM who is the child of American Jewish immigrants. Michael says he also is the first Israeli PM with verified Dutch Jewish ancestry. 


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