On The Tube: Hanukkah on Rye

I admit I was tempted to pass on this one because of a horrific title. Maybe a play on “awry.” Or something.

As the movie unfolded, my wife commented that it was like Crossing Delancey. I remember liking that movie, but from forty years ago, I don’t remember its details. I was thinking You’ve Got Mail, something fresher in my memory. Anyway, good banter between the two leads who carry this film well until they are upstaged at the very end.

Molly, the film’s main female character narrates a morsel of the Jewish immigrant experience in early 20th century New York. That was a serious moment amongst the romantic fluff. There is a surprise reveal at the end that just about upstages the inevitable happy ending. That moment elevates this viewing from above average to something rather meaningful. I told my wife it sits at number three for me among 2022 Christmas movies. (And that’s saying something because I’ve seen a lot of them.)

Hanukkah חג חנוכה.jpg

One reviewer panned the film for pandering. My experience growing up on the fringes of Jewish culture in the US isn’t deep enough to say that’s true. But the depiction of religion in a Hallmark movie was refreshing. My biggest complaint about fluffy Christmas fare is that Christianity is hardly presented at all. Churchgoing is rare–and you’d think there are still a lot of C&E Christians despite the rise of the nones. Hallmark and its clone channels scoop up servings of a secular Americana: romance, small-town nostalgia, the triumph of the underdog over the big bad corporation. (Maybe why Amazon will never nail that piece of the market–Jeff Bezos would have to be cast as the grinch in green and greed.)

Another reviewer likes. I’m leaning in her direction. I can’t quite explain the attraction of these holiday movies. One op-ed I read describes them as “fascist propaganda.” That sounds like blaming the sheep that got skinned to clothe the wolf. Hallmarkfare might be fluff, but I don’t see fascist ideals in its idealism. There is clumsiness, perhaps, when people write or direct or act cultures different from their own. Christians telling Muslim stories. White people writing about people of color. Straights about LGBTQ. Gentiles about Jews. Secular Christmas folk about religion. If Hallmark did a Christmas movie about a minister or a music director, I’m sure the wrong notes would annoy me.

This movie is probably worth watching. Except if a person were a fascist.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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