Arts & Culture

David and Layla: Good, or Just Jewish?

This week, the movie that doesn’t get a free pass just because it’s about The Jews is David & Layla, a love story about a Jewish Brooklynite who falls for a Kurdish Muslim. Both Jewish reviewers and those in the … Read More

By / February 15, 2008

This week, the movie that doesn’t get a free pass just because it’s about The Jews is David & Layla, a love story about a Jewish Brooklynite who falls for a Kurdish Muslim. Both Jewish reviewers and those in the mainstream press seemed to agree that the film would be a fine way to pass two hours — well, maybe if you're already sitting on an airplane.

“Though it's no Romeo and Juliet, David & Layla is an offbeat cross-cultural romance with a positive message,” said the Los Angeles Times. And The Washington Post lauded the film’s sincerity, but lamented its staginess. The New York Times was even less positive:

While never less than watchable, “David & Layla” at times feels less like a movie than three or four episodes of a cable TV comedy. The fresh insights are countered by clichés, including wacky music cues, a first kiss disguised as CPR and recurring exposition-friendly scenes of David visiting his heavily accented therapist (Albert Macklin) to discuss his impotence.

The Jewish reviewers are more enthusiastic, but their praise rings a little bit hollow. The Washington Jewish Week review keeps talking up the movie's strong points in a way that highlights its problems, calling it "touching" but "implausible" and noting that the high-spirited music masks a serious lack of depth.

The Jerusalem Post took a deep-down-we’re-all-the-same approach:

“What saves the film from triteness is the loving insight it provides into the joys and sufferings of the Kurdish people. The Kurds, like another Near Eastern tribe whose name slips my mind, seem to have been handpicked by their deity for endless miseries, but defiantly preserve their humor and high spirits.”

And The Jewish Exponent, calling the movie “a mixed blessing about a mixed marriage,” took the opportunity to make a boatload of awful puns:

  • "Maybe, more than anything, this is the first Oy-raqi film?”
  • “David's family — which wins a stereotyping award by a nose — is aghast that their agnostic son would go outside the religion — out of his head — to get involved with a woman who dresses so sheikly.”
  • And, after a discussion of the ways Jonroy trimmed his too-long film: “The first Kurdish movie mohel?”’

Any movie that forces a writer to reach for those kind of jokes is probably a movie to avoid.