'Holy Rollers' goes nowhere.


Until watching "Holy Rollers," it had been years since I thought about what a religion professor, appropriately enough here, told my prerequisite class years ago. In his dense, old-world Brooklyn accent textured in and around the same neighborhoods featured in this movie, he said "if you walk away from a movie without reconsidering long-held ideas or finding yourself changed in even to a small degree, you're probably just wasting your time."

Don't get me wrong, I unabashedly love a good robot apocalypse and seeing Rob Schneider slip in dog poop as much as the next guy, but when a movie falls in your lap about Hasidism and drug smuggling, it's time to start loosening up your eyebrows for a good raise or two. Unfortunately, "Holy Rollers" fails to stimulate, but if you're looking for a fun time at the movies, you could do a lot worse than this little indie flick.

It's a coming-of-age piece about Ben Gold (a surprisingly understated Jesse Eisenberg), an agonizingly shy 20-year old in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood, studying to be a rabbi, freshly rejected from an upcoming arranged marriage.

It's a culture-clash movie about the disparity between his familiar, devout community and the neon hedonism of Amsterdam.

And it's a crime thriller about the unassuming Ben — payos (side curls), black hat and all — muling Ecstasy into the states. All of this unexpected mayhem comes about due to Ben's next-door neighbor, Yosef (Justin Bartha, the sun-stroked groom of "The Hangover"), a porn-loving, cokeheaded, chain-smoking Goofus to our main guy's Gallant.

To boot, the story's based on a true story, set during the late '90s MDMA boom. And the characters in the movie? You can thank those inconspicuous, real-life hustlers for a ton of wild parties probably even in far-removed Arkansas after they managed to smuggle in over a million pills of Ecstasy in only six months. That's a lot of drugs, a lot of excitement and a movie-worthy sum by any count. But in spite of it all, "Rollers" never quite takes off the way you want it to.

Like the bulk of its other contemporary, hedonist, "based on true events" cautionary tales ("Party Monster," "21"), this promising film leaves you just entertained enough but ultimately unnourished, with more questions about the eccentric source material than newfound insights about the characters behind it. It's a fantastic premise, ripe with opportunity to explore issues of faith and hedonism, devotion and inhibition, nature and nurture — with fun, high sexiness throughout — but first-time director Kevin Asch never bothers to ask any questions, so no answers are ever given. And the fun, high sexiness on screen just comes off as a typical Saturday night at an OK club.

Not to kvetch too much about the movie's lack of introspection: I'll admit the movie's an altogether good time, jarring the viewer back and forth from Ben's family house and synagogue — both filmed in the gorgeous, blacks and golden browns of Gordon Wills' Corleone compound — to Manhattan basement parties and Dutch red-light districts. Jesse Eisenberg's discreet performance was at once skillfully charmless and totally sympathetic which, by the end, got the ol' heartstrings moving during his inevitable (and, yeah, formulaic) fall from grace.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Tarpley

  • The Beatles anew

    Daniel Whelan's remixes expose hidden treasure in the Fab Four's catalog.
    • Aug 17, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Gay diamonds

    Scenes from Rodeo in the Rock.
    • May 7, 2015
  • Not much to 'Love'

    In Judd Apatow's new Netflix original series.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • Hutchinson administration resists accountability in child rape case

    After a nightmarish revelation about serial rapes by a state-approved foster parent, the Hutchinson administration, from the governor on down, resist talking about how it happened.
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Movie Reviews

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Witchhunt

    The Rep turns up the heat with Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.'
  • George Takei to UCA

    Also, 'The Halloween Tree' at Ron Robinson, Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival, Fourche Creek Discovery Day, Halloween on the River, Chanticleer at Christ Episcopal Church and Andrew W.K. at Revolution.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Good Weather

    • Congratulations Tara, beautifully written!

    • on October 27, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation