'The Gliksmans': Film Review

Indican Pictures
It's enough to make you plotz.
9/27/2019

An elderly Jewish couple experiences a series of misadventures in Michael Skolnick's raucuous comedy featuring cameos by Ed Asner and Cloris Leachman.

Much like your elderly relatives who come over to visit and threaten to wear out their welcome, The Gliksmans somehow manages to be both charming and annoying. To paraphrase an old joke, this raucous alta kocker comedy, about a long-married Jewish couple experiencing a day from hell, isn't really very good. And the running time is so short! But the film is impossible to entirely dislike nonetheless.

The titular octogenarian couple are Barry (Jon Jacobs, whose hangdog expression makes him look like he suffers from a perpetual case of heartburn) and Barbara (Bryna Weiss, instantly recognizable from scores of television and film appearances). One morning, they're forced to get up early to go to the bank to straighten out a fraud issue involving Barry's credit card, and then to the post office. After bickering over breakfast and ingesting a massive amount of medications, they set out through the streets of the San Fernando Valley, with Barbara driving because Barry's license has been suspended.

Along the way, they stop to visit some friends, a rich couple in Beverly Hills (played by veterans Richard Portnow and Cloris Leachman), and to get gas. Shortly thereafter, they sense that they're being followed by a pickup trick, prompting them to frantically call 911 and attempt to flee their pursuer in a wacky car chase.

And things get stranger from there. The couple wind up separated, with Barry wandering into a convenience store and coming across an old acquaintance, Moshe (Ed Asner), who marvels at Barry's busy day. "TWO errands," Moshe says, incredulously. Barry's next stop is a synagogue, where he's corralled by a frantic rabbi into being part of a minyan. "It's almost impossible to get out of a minyan once it's started," Barry observes miserably, as a prelude to a series of surreal flashbacks set throughout history illustrating the notion.

Barbara doesn't fare much better. Desperately looking for Barry, she begins hallucinating, apparently as a result of having accidentally taken psychedelic drugs (don't ask). She imagines herself in a sci-fi, secret agent-style adventure, partially rendered through animation. She also stops by the convenience store and runs into Moshe, who nearly rapes her. "I want you, right now!" he announces, in a heavy Jewish accent.

There's certainly nothing subtle about The Gliksmans, both the characters and the film. That's readily apparent from the cast, which includes former porn star Ron Jeremy (naturally) as a store clerk. It does seem, criminal, however, to have a reunion between Mary Tyler Moore Show veterans Asner and Leachman and not have them appear in a single scene together.

Much of the overly broad humor falls flat, such as the sex scene after the Gliksmans have rekindled their passion for each other that's accompanied by a '70s porn-style soundtrack. But other elements are indeed clever, including the Movie of the Week-inspired opening credits that seem particularly appropriate since the film, clocking in at a mere 73 minutes, would have fit perfectly in that format.

The pic's promotional materials describe it as "a mix of Bad Grandpa and Going in Style," although the level of wit is far closer to the former than the latter (minus the raunch). Making their feature debuts, director Michael Skolnick and co-writer Eden Stelmach display more enthusiasm than finesse.  But their affection for their characters comes across, and the two leads are so endearing as the kvetchy Gliksmans that you'll likely find yourself feeling the same way.

Production company: The Gliksmans LLC.
Distributor: Indican Pictures
Cast: Jon Jacobs, Bryna Weiss, Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman, Richard Portnow, Ron Jeremy
Director: Michael Skolnick
Screenwriters-producers: Eden Stelmach, Michael Skolnick
Executive producers: Ayelet Naor, Gili Naor, Barak Rosen, Julia Skolnick, Taly Stelmach, Yuval Stelmach, Patrice Thomas, Aaron Varsh

Director of photography: Eduardo Ramirez Gonzalez
Production designer-costume designer: Carolina Inoue
Editor: Peter Fandetti
Composers: Mark Charif, Daniel Lifton

Rated R, 73 minutes