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The Scroll

No. 25: Ordinary People

The life-saving superiority of Jewish emotionalism

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1980, dir. Robert Redford. A young, preppy Timothy Hutton driven to a suicide attempt after the tragic death of his beloved jock brother, Buck, in a sailing accident. (His name was Buck! It was a sailing accident!) Mary Tyler Moore, buttoned up in sweater sets and turtlenecks, as his mother, determined to keep things neat and tidy and settle all problems within the family. And a long, late-night run away from the family’s perfect suburban center-hall colonial and into the arms—literally—of the kindly, besweatered psychiatrist played by Judd Hirsch. Ordinary People is American cinema’s iconic, triumphant case for the life-saving superiority of Jewish emotionalism over WASPy repression. Among its three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, was one for its novice director, Robert Redford—who seven years earlier, as Hubbell in The Way We Were, had abandoned Barbra Streisand’s Katie precisely because he couldn’t handle her Jewish emotionalism. Goyishe kop.

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Hosshi says:

Help me out here, folks. I believe there is a certain movie that is missing in this list, or I have just forgotten the title. I remember impressions of movies more than their details but the backstory of the film I am trying to recall is about a woman who lives the shetl (in France?, England) because she wants more out of life. Eventually, she becomes skilled in a new kind of photographic process (daguerrotype?), and their is a love affair, I believe, with a non-Jew. The opening scene is of her, with her mother, in the balcony of the synagogue, which suggests that she is on the verge of realizing that she no longer wants a separated life. What’s the name of this film?


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No. 25: Ordinary People

The life-saving superiority of Jewish emotionalism

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