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Sunday, April 06, 2008


My Grandmother, aka Bubbe Lowenstein, flew up to Vermont for her annual week of mocking me and my perfect husband for living here. It is what we have affectionately dubbed “The Annual Mud Season Slur Tour.” For fifteen years now she has abandoned her room in the private assisted living facility she calls home in Boca Raton to observe the melting snow and sometimes flooding throughout our beautiful state while she sits comfortably in our house and clucks her tongue in disapproval at the very idea that anyone, especially someone sharing her own bloodline, would voluntarily choose to live in a place where people inexplicably drive their SUVs onto ice and then watch their cars disappear into the lake with only a shrug and an “oops!”.

Bubbe would have everyone in Vermont pack up and follow her immediately to Florida, where she believes it is her duty to lie by the pool daily for a minimum of at least two hours, toasting herself like an old bass in a skillet full of Shake ‘n Bake. Yes, my grandmother is a sun worshipper, and that is her biggest gripe with Vermont. It is too overcast for her never-ending desire to tan herself into a russet-hued coma. Despite her understanding that Florida is essentially best-known as “God’s Waiting Room” amongst people her own age, Bubbe loves the sauna of southern Florida, where there are more widows than Democrats and all of them play Mahjong.

So while Bubbe was here I told her I was going to the
Essex Cinemas to see Leatherheads and she surprised me by asking if she could come along. It wasn’t until we arrived at the theater that I realized she misunderstood the title and thought it was going to be about the balding pates of elderly men like those that sit poolside at her Twilight Home every day. How, she wondered, was George Clooney of all people going to play an elderly Jew when he was obviously a nice goy from Kentucky? Even though I knew better, I couldn’t help but pause for a moment to consider the idea, trying to imagine gorgeous George in a wool beskeshe with tzitziyot, his adorable payos framing the sides of his face, crowned with his fur-trimmed streimel. Such a nice boy, but no matter how hard I tried the only celebrity I could envision this way was Woody Allen, which is not exactly the same thing.

I explained that Leatherheads referred to the rudimentary helmets the players wore when playing football back in the early days of the game and that the movie was about an over-the-hill player named Dodge Connelly, played by Clooney (Michael Clayton), who struggles to keep his team, the Duluth Bulldogs, alive after they lose their corporate sponsor. In 1925, this wasn’t as easy as it sounds because professional football was barely alive, and the Bulldogs were not exactly a ranking team among a list of winners. Complicating this task is his risky financial decision to coax college football legend Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski; tv’s “The Office”) to join the Bulldogs even though he doesn’t have the money to pay the guy.

Bubbe’s eyes lit up when I mentioned Krasinski. “He’s a nice Jewish boy, isn’t he?”

I confessed I didn’t know. “He might just be Polish. His name doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a Jew,” I offered.

Bubbe smiled. “We need to get him in a ‘banana hammock’ and check out his religion.

'Banana hammock’? Grandma, where did you ever learn that term?” I gasped.

“I live in Boca, Sweetie. I may be old, but I’m not dead. Speedos rock the beach, and little is left to the imagination, if you get my drift, including whether the guy’s had a bris or not.”

I changed the subject immediately, and tried to get back to describing
Leatherheads for her. “It also stars Renée Zellweger (Bee Movie). She plays a reporter who gets sent to dog Carter because someone told her editor at the paper that Carter has a secret that would ruin his image if it came out.

Bubbe shrugged and we went in, found our seats and watched the story unfold.
Afterward, I asked Bubbe what she thought. “You said it was about football, but it was really a
comedy about relationships. I thought it was very funny. It reminded me of those old movies with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Do people even know who they are anymore?”

I shook my head sadly. “Not very many, I’m afraid. Even the “classic” movie channels on tv don’t show many movies that are older than those from the ‘80s, and hardly ever anything in black and white. But you’re right. Zellweger and Clooney sling their dialogue back and forth like they’re playing a game of tennis. Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly really wrote some funny, funny stuff. The amazing part is that this is their first movie. They are both sports writers by trade, not comedians.”

No doubt because Brantley and Reilly have such extensive knowledge of sports history the background story concerning the introduction of a Commissioner of Football and the enforcement of football’s first official rules to regulate the game seems non-intrusive and flawlessly a part of the bigger tale that engulfs Dodge and Carter aka “The Bullet.”

Clooney’s done an exceptional job directing the film, a tough feat bearing in mind he is also the movie’s star. He generously shares the screen with Krasinski and gives the young actor considerable close-ups and character-driven scenes that elevate the actor from supporting player to equal status with Clooney and Zellweger.

As for Zellweger, she shines all on her own, blessed with a face that seems oddly more at home in
period pieces like Down With Love and this than in contemporary movies. Her blonde tresses fall as naturally as Veronica Lake’s over one eye and her lips have never met a ruby red gloss they didn’t like. She more than holds her own with her male co-stars and keeps them in line with her verbal jabs and perfect reactions to their various boy-type shenanigans.

Bubbe and I left the
Essex Cinemas that afternoon with something in common for the first time in a long while. We shared our laughs and realized that as different as our lives might be we will always be able to find a way to laugh about things before the day is done. As long as there is no mention of mud.

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