This little feel-good
British coming-of-age memoir has taken about two years to make it across the
pond to the US.
This delayed release is probably not about quality - while
it is far from a perfect film, Sixty Six is sweetly nostalgic and enjoyable.
It has nothing to do with cast. The mom is played by acclaimed actress
Helena Bonham Carter - and it is nice seeing her back playing a sensible
common British woman after the eccentric characters she has been playing in
her husband Tim Burton's films. Also, the performance of
twelve-year-old Gregg Sulkin in the lead role is a revelation - this kid is one of
the most natural child actors to appear onscreen in quite a while.
It's hard to say why it
took so long to make it to the US, however there are a few contributing factors which are
impossible to ignore. These don't make Sixty Six an unlikeable
film, just a hard sale.
Sixty Six is about
growing up Jewish and nerdy in the not-so-swinging suburbs of 60s London.
The storyline essentially
revolves around a Bar Mitzvah and a football match.
It is a decidedly
old-fashioned film, a look at the financial, relationship and political
problems of a more-than-slightly neurotic working class family.
It may seem to some to be
too much of a specialty story to reach a wider audience.
Once upon a time - and not
ALL that long ago - films like this could be made and released to a small
appreciative audience - see The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Joshua:
Then and Now and even something like Crossing Delancey.
It would be a real shame if
American audiences looked at a capsule review of Sixty Six and went,
"Soccer? The Torah? Ummm... what else is playing?"
While those are definitely
aspects of the film, they are just garnish. Sixty Six is a
semi-autobiographical (director Paul Weiland calls it "a true-ish story")
look back at family life in the less-rocking avenues of 1966 London - sort
of a Brit equivalent of The Wonder Years. The seismic political
and cultural changes which are going on just miles away from this family
only tangentially effect these characters. In many ways they are in a
cocoon of family and community. The world is changing around them, but
they are stubbornly staying the same.
This lack of changes is
being witnessed by a twelve-year boy who craves change, but can not figure
out quite how to bring it about. Bernie (Sulkin) is a complete loser
in school. He doesn't relate with the other kids and is always the
last person chosen on sports teams. He starts to obsessively, probably
delusionally, become convinced that his ticket to popularity is to have the
best Bar Mitzvah party ever. He starts planning a grand blow-out that
will live on in history. Then he learns that his Bar Mitzvah is
planned on the same day that England may very well be playing in their
first-ever World Cup football championship.
Of course, the football
match is only one of the problems in his plan. His father Manny (Eddie
Marsan), who in many ways Bernie takes after, can't really afford to have
the grand party of his son's dreams. Manny is a complete mess:
obsessive compulsive, a total hypochondriac, depressed, unwilling to take
any chances or even drive over 25 KM/H. For a change, though, his
neuroses do have a real cause - his family mom-and-pop grocery store, which
he runs with his brother, is being driven out of business by a new shiny
supermarket which opened down the street.
The family is really held
together by the mother, who smartly juggles her family's problems, soothes
hurt feelings and puts out fires (sometimes literally). Bonham Carter
gives the character a surprisingly understated strength, she is mostly a
diplomat but can be fierce if someone threatens her family.
The film puts the family
through a series of miniature disasters before coming to a just slightly too
abrupt epiphany, but it is mostly a pleasant ride. Sixty Six is
a small, quiet coming-of-age film, but it is one of abundant charm.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: July 15, 2008.