The 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival opening night: very Jewy.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The 13th annual festival opened at Big Newport Thursday night with the world premiere of director/co-writer/co-producer Bryan Fogel's Jewtopia, which had an overflow audience next door to the largest movie screen west of the Mississippi in stitches. The crowd in the big room was presumably doubled over as well.
Would it hurt you not to love this movie? Despite thousands of years of persecution, Jewish people have a long history of laughing at themselves, and especially their mothers. Just look at Mel Brooks: it may have cost him family members, but he's made a mint poking fun at Jews' . . . um . . . little German misadventure.
Jewtopia has universal appeal because, love American-style Judaism or hate it, you'll be laughing at jokes about mohels, hook noses, moneychangers, media control and gefilte fish. Bonus for the new millennium: vaginal loathing.
Fogel relied on a large ensemble cast for the flick that pokes fun at every conceivable Jewish stereotype, and it seemed about half of them fought traffic and braved possible rain to be there with him opening night. Among thoses spotted on the red carpet leading into Big Newport or at the Fashion Island opening night gala were Joel David Moore, Ivan Sergei, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Tom Arnold, Elaine Tan, Bree Turner, Rachel G. Fox and Rolando Molina.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we'd have our world premiere in Newport Beach, home of the Real Housewives franchise,” Fogel told the crowd in the smaller room before his film rolled. “Who knew Orange County loves Jews?”
He then read a letter sent to him hours before offering congratulations on a fine film that truly depicts the modern Jewish condition. The sender wished he could be with Fogel opening night. “It is signed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” said the director to yuks.
Jewish Adam Lipschitz (Moore, who you know from Avatar and TV's Bones) and his gentile buddy Christian O'Connell (Sergei of TV's Charmed and Crossing Jordan) were best friends growing up until they were separated by a literally shitty incident. On the eve of Adam's wedding to controlling fellow chosen person Hannah (Sigler, who was Tony's daughter on The Sopranos and herself in Entourage), he connects with Christian (get it?), who needs to Jew himself up to win the heart of Heebstress Alison Marks (Jennifer Love Hewitt, who you know from being Jennifer Love Hewitt).
Toss in gags built around the invective cataloged above and strong support from the actors who came to Newps–as well as Rita Wilson, UCI grad Jon Lovitz and a picture stealing Peter Stormare (masterfully avoiding his Swedish accent and the woodchipper)–and you've got a delightful romp one hopes is okay to laugh at. It should be noted some Jewish feminists have objected to the controlling portrayal of women in the movie Fogel co-wrote with Sam Wolfson, based on their stage play. Not that any of those critics speak with their mothers anymore.
You can bet this indie will hit local theaters, so if you missed the premiere, a clip follows on the next page . . .
And here's my ol' pal Greer Wylder on the red carpet:
The flick was followed in a Fashion Island courtyard by an opening night party that seemed awfully cramped, but a good time, good free food and booze and an amped-up performance by the Million Dollar Quartet--which you can see nightly at the Segerstrom Center through May 6–was had by all.
The festival continues through Thursday with more than 350 features, documentaries and shorts from more than 40 countries. Visit newportbeachfilmfest.com for details.