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2 reviews, 4 user ratings

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Focus (2001)
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by Chris Parry

"A little slow, but totally compelling into the bargain."
4 stars

Bill Macy could be filmed opening a box of Corn Flakes and who amongst us wouldn't pay a fiver to watch? The guy is just honestly the character actor of our time and has never, ever let the side down (well, once, but Bill came out and admitted Jurassic Park 3 was a pile of crap, so we can't really hold that against him). In Focus, Bill plays a Christian man during WWII who has the unfortunate luck of having bought a pair of glasses that make him look Jewish. Not a big deal today, but back then America wasn't exactly digging on the whole Jewish vibe.

What would you do? You open your curtains in 1940's middle America and see one of the suburban tough guys giving a Puerto Rican girl a good seeing too in the middle of the street. What do you do?

Well, most people would do nothing and go back to bed, and that's Bill Macy's choice in Focus. He makes his bed, and when a new pair of glasses turn the local neighborhood's racial hatred against him, he has to lie in it. See, Bill's new glasses are the horn-rimmed type and with his facial features, why everyone who used to count him as a good Christian friend is suddenly realizing that he may in fact be a JEW! Good God, not a JEW!

After years of discriminating against people with the same misfortune in his job as a personnel officer, Macy's character is suddenly on the other end of the stick. He loses his position at work because he doesn't present the right appearance, then quits his job in protest, only to find that war-time America had no interest in giving a Jew-boy an even break.

Then he meets a woman in the same position as he (Laura Dern, giving the best performance in her somewhat spotty career), falls for her and... well, let's just say if you thought one quasi-Jew inspired hatred, with a second one on the scene, the hatred has only just begun.

A little long and totally preachy, Focus is a well shot (if sometimes showy) color film that somehow sits in your mind as a black and white affair. Based on an Arthur Miller novel, the film recaptures 1940's middle America exceptionally well, and on more than one occasion has you thinking about classic Twilight Zone episodes where the good folks on Main Street let their prejudices turn them into animals.

With few words and a whole lot of sorrow, David Paymer makes his sub-character, a newspaper-selling Jew who makes no bones about hsi background, all but the entire focus of the film. It's a grand co-star performance and gives a third dimension to Macy's sometimes two dimensional lead.

Focus is certainly not for everyone, as some people won't believe in the source situation, and others won't believe that *they* have anything to learn from such a situation, but if you put yourself in another man's shoes just long enough to see what he goes through, you'll come out of it an educated human being. I felt a little more educated after watching Focus, and thought the film is not without its flaws, it has enough to praise to make it worth your time.

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originally posted: 09/04/02 10:13:56
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User Comments

1/22/04 N. Grift Well put together 3 stars
10/13/03 Kyle Waste of time. But, I had it to waste. Boring movie. 2 stars
12/11/01 pooberry Disturbing yet funny, WH Macy is awesome, worth the money 4 stars
12/06/01 Heather Unsettling but thought provoking movie about prejudice and hysteria in WW2 society 4 stars
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  19-Oct-2001 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Neal Slavin

Written by
  Kendrew Lascelles

  William H. Macy
  Laura Dern
  David Paymer
  Meat Loaf Aday

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