Zach Braff, Zoe Lister-Jones and Jackie Hoffman

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News

Zach Braff's Comeback?, Fonda and Tomlin; Sandler, Mark Twain Winner


“A Good Person” opens in select theaters on Mar. 24 and opens “wide” on Mar. 31. It was directed and written by ZACH BRAFF, 47. Florence Pugh stars as Alison and Morgan Freeman stars as Daniel.  


Here is the capsule plot: Alison, an opioid addict, is involved in a terrible auto accident. This accident kills her friend, Daniel’s daughter. Daniel feels that Alison shared blame for the accident and Alison harbors a lot of guilt. Years later, Alison seeks help for her drug problem and happens to run into Daniel. To Alison’s surprise, he shares his struggles with her (like raising Ryan, his teenage granddaughter). As you might guess, forgiveness is the take-away lesson of the film.


ZOE LISTER-JONES, 40, plays Simone, one of the film’s six lead characters. Simone is described as “a hardened veteran of Alcoholics Anonymous, but an earthy, good soul.”


The film’s trailer has one funny moment: the always-funny JACKIE HOFFMAN, 62,  plays a crazy neighbor who stands on her lawn and screams at Ryan’s teen lover as he exits Daniel’s house, half-naked.


Frankly speaking, this film is a “make-or-break” moment in Braff’s filmmaking career. Braff was the star of “Scrubs”, a hit sit-com, when he surprised everyone with "Garden State" (2004). He wrote, directed, and starred-in this film. Braff’s character credibly dealt with severe family problems while, at the same time, he entered into a charming and quirky romance.


“Garden State” was a critical and box-office hit and Braff, was a “golden boy”. But his filmmaking career since has been a dud. Its no accident that the trailer for “A Good Person” says: "from the director of Garden State" [a 2004 film].


After “Garden State”, Braff’s acting career remained “okay”, but he just couldn’t write, or get financed (not clear which), a follow-up film. Finally, he got the public (Kick-Starter) to finance “Wish I Was Here” (2014), a film that Braff wrote, starred-in, and directed. It’s about a Jewish family and it had many Jewish-related plot moments. But it was, sadly, a not very good film. Critics panned it and audiences stayed away.


I suspect that “A Good Person” would not have been financed if Pugh, a “hot”, Oscar-nominated actress (“Little Women”), wasn’t “attached” as the film’s star. Pugh and Braff were romantic partners from 2019-2022 and they lived together during the pandemic. Their relationship “raised eyebrows” because Pugh is 20 years younger than Braff. They have re-united to promote their film.


“Moving On” opened in a handful of theaters on March 17. As I write this, the opening week “take” isn’t available. If it did well, it will open “wide". In any event, it will start streaming sometime in April. 


The film got a good, if not stellar “Variety” review when it played the Toronto Film Festival.

“Moving” was directed and written by PAUL WEITZ, 66. Variety said: "Weitz started his career with the hit American Pie…--and basically made a career telling decent, disposable stories of stunted maturity since (“About a Boy”, “Admission”). His one great film was “Grandma” (2015).


In “Grandma”, Weitz got great performances from JULIA GARNER and Lilly Tomlin. Garner played a (broke) young woman who wants an abortion. She seeks help from her lesbian grandma (Tomlin).


Tomlin co-stars in “Moving On" as a lesbian who detests the recently-widowed husband of a late, great friend of hers. Another friend (Jane Fonda) of the deceased woman seriously wants to murder her friend’s husband. Their hatred is gradually explained.


Variety said the Tomlin and Fonda, as usual, had some real chemistry and the film has some really good dramatic moments—even if it isn’t great. So, it’s worth putting it on your streaming list.


As I write this, ADAM SANDLER, 56, is scheduled to receive (March 19) the prestigious Mark Twain Award for American Humor. The ceremony is held at the Kennedy Center. A video of the ceremony will be shown on CNN on Sunday, March 26 at 8PM. Its likely that there will be encore showings and it will be available on-demand.


Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said: “Adam Sandler has entertained audiences for over three decades with his films, music, and his tenure as a fan favorite cast member on SNL. Adam has created characters that have made us laugh, cry, and cry from laughing.”


Here's the list of funny people taking the stage to honor Sandler: JUDD APATOW, IDINA MENZEL, ROB SCHNEIDER, BEN STILLER, Jennifer Aniston, Dana Carvey, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, and David Spade. 



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