Nate Bloom blogs on this week’s Jews in the News
You might not have heard of the indie film, “The Sessions,” but you will hear a lot about it in the months to come. It is a virtual certainty that it will garner Oscar nominations early next year. The film debuted at the 2012 Sundance Festival, where it won major awards. The film opened in a few cities on the 19th, and got absolute raves.
Currently, there is no greater Tampa Bay area opening scheduled. But I have to believe this will change in the near future, given the reviews. Check the official site for opening updates here: http://content.foxsearchlight.com/inside/node/5272
It is based on a true story of the late Mark O’Brien (played by John Hawkes). O’Brien contracted polio when he was a young child. It left him with little muscle control below his neck and he had to stay most of the time in an iron lung machine to breath. A smart, funny, and incredibly determined guy, he earned a UC Berkeley grad degree and was a pretty good poet and journalist. In 1988, when O’Brien was 38, certain events came together that led O’Brien to make a determined effort to lose his virginity.
O’Brien, a practicing Catholic, frequently sought the counsel of his very humane priest (William Macy. 62). The priest and O’Brien discussed many topics, including love and sexuality. The priest suggested that O’Brien also consult a therapist. The therapist told O’Brien that he might be helped, in regard to sex, by seeking the services of a professional sex surrogate. The therapist contacted CHERYL COHEN GREENE (played incredibly well by Helen Hunt), a Berkeley-based surrogate and her relationship with, and her four sessions with O’Brien, are a large part of the film. The sex scenes between O’Brien and Greene do contain full frontal female nudity, but they are not salacious in the least. They are real and tender and even, now and again, a little funny.
The director/writer of the film, BEN LEWIN, 65, also is a polio victim and walks with canes. Born in Poland, and raised in Australia, he was a criminal barrister before becoming a TV/film director and he made some good films, including one about Jewish refugees interned in Australia during WWII (“The Dunera Boys”). But he found it hard to get work in the last decade and was selling high end wrist watches in California before making “The Sessions.” His “Sessions” script is like a high-end watch with everything fitting just so. Gentle humor is interspersed throughout the film, thus giving this dramatic story a lightness that is an unexpected delight.
Greene, 68, who I recently spoke to, was raised a Catholic. She converted to Judaism (“Conservative”) in 1968 and her two children were raised Jewish. The film depicts her as converting during the time she was treating O’Brien. This minor factual change allowed Lewin to have a moving scene in which Greene enters a mikveh bath as part of her conversion. The mikveh “dip” and the comments of the female attendant (played by RHEA PERLMAN, 64)—subtly reference back to O’Brien’s condition in a way that is hard to explain in a few words.
ROBIN WEIGERT, 43, has a small, but “lovely” role at the end of the film as SUSAN FERNBACH, a writer. Greene told that Hawkes, who played Jewish shopkeeper Sol Star on “Deadwood,” asked Weigert (who played Calamity Jane on “Deadwood”) to be in “Sessions.”
I know I’ve written quite a bit about Olympic gold medalist ALY RAISMAN, 22. But a recent TV station report really moved me and probably will move you, too. Raisman received an award from Women’s International Zionist Organization of South Florida on Oct. 17. Accompanied by her parents, she personally appeared to accept the award which was given to “celebrate her courage and commitment to the Jewish people after dedicating her extraordinary performance to the 11 Israeli athletes massacred 40 years ago at the Olympic Games in Munich.” Raisman told a Florida TV station about performing to the music of Hava Nagila, “It was so exciting to perform it. It gave me such an adrenaline rush, and it was so exciting to be able to represent my Jewish heritage.” Her mother told the station, “I was talking to our rabbi back home, and he shared a letter that he had gotten from a woman whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, and she was watching the Olympics, and she had no idea that Aly was performing. When she did perform her floor routine to Hava Nagila she said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I never thought in my lifetime that I would see a Jewish girl performing at the Olympics to Hava Nagila.”
Read more; See the TV station interviews: http://www.wsvn.com/news/articles/local/21008822044233/olympic-gold-medalist-speaks-to-jewish-community/#ixzz2AFIr4etQ
Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Atlanta Jewish Times, the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Most of the items in Bloom’s weekly newspaper column differ from the items in his bi-weekly column on interfaith celebrities for InterfaithFamily.com. If you wish to contact Nate Bloom, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . The author welcomes questions and celebrity “tips,” especially about people you personally know.