Oys and Girls

Renee Zellweger as an Orthodox Jew? A Price Above Rubies proves the actress's worth.

Truthfully, Renee Zellweger's New York Jewishness fades in and out, but the simple honesty of her conviction does not. (Just remember that Melanie Griffith played a Jewish woman in Sidney Lumet's A Stranger Among Us, and Texan Zellweger doesn't seem like such a stretch.) Good as she was in The Whole Wide World and Jerry Maguire, both were essentially reactive roles she rescued by adding emotional range to her soft-spoken girlishness -- she was Patricia Arquette with expressive eyes. A Price Above Rubies sends her on an arduous journey that requires a wide and sometimes conflicted variety of feelings, and Zellweger, along with the superb Eccleston as her lover and the haunted-eyed Glenn Fitzgerald as her husband, expresses them all in just the right places.

A Price Above Rubies may strike some viewers as far-fetched. We're used to movies about ethnic urban neighborhoods having a grainy, shaky-camera documentary look, and Boaz Yakin bravely goes for an eerier, more elevated feel for his second film. Bravest of all was his decision to treat the lead character like a person first, a woman second. It grounds the movie in a measured intelligence that makes the film's profound themes feel authentic. This is one "adult fable" whose lessons you'll be processing long after the credits roll.

A Price Above Rubies.
Rated R.
Directed by Boaz Yakin. With Renee Zellweger, Glenn Fitzgerald, Christopher Eccleston and Julianna Margulies.

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