From Sonny Corleone, son to Don Corleone in “The Godfather,” to Walter, the father of Buddy in “Elf,” and now Harry Rosenmerck, a retired secular Jewish cardiologist in “Holy Lands,” who leaves everything behind in New York to become a pig farmer in Israel. James Caan is credited with more than 131 appearances in his illustrious acting career. As you can imagine, in “Holy Lands” becoming a pig farmer in Nazareth was not endearing to his new community, including the rabbi and priest.
It is during his conflict with the community where Harry develops a relationship with a rabbi and tries to reevaluate his life as it relates to his estranged and dysfunctional family. Spread out all over the map are his ex-wife, brilliantly played by Rosanna Arquette; his son, who is a gay playwright; and a 30-something daughter, who refuses to grow up. Since Harry is virtually devoid of all technology, the family communicates via snail mail to express feelings.
While pig farming in Israel would certainly seem ridiculous, at its core the film is all about love and acceptance of not only family, but humankind in general. Harry’s family could never understand his change of career, hoping he would have instead just played golf like everyone else. The slow blossoming friendship between the rabbi and Harry lets you look inside Harry and how he is trying to remain connected to his family.
In a perfect balance, the movie does mix humor with real human drama. Watching the relationship blossom between Harry, the protagonist, and the rabbi, the antagonist, as both try to understand each other, was touching, as a real bond was established between the two. While Harry might not fully understand why raising pigs in Israel would be such a big deal, it is the conversation with the rabbi regarding the issue surrounding pigs and the Jewish religion that hits home: “Judaism is not a religion of faith; it is a religion of question.”
Lou Ladinsky is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., and now lives in East Cobb, Marietta. He is a product manager for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, where he has worked for the past 25 years.