Are you as sick of news about politics, terrorism and global destruction as I am? Take yourself out for a laugh to see “Dough,” a whole different kind of “buddy movie.”
A teen-aged Muslim refugee from Darfur lands in London with his mother where they live in extreme poverty. An old Jewish kosher baker struggles against all odds to keep his family business open. The young man is drawn into the pot-selling business; the old man is the accidental beneficiary of his illegal activities.
The twists and turns, much like the braided Sabbath challah they learn to bake together, are a skillful weaving of race, religion, prejudice and the ultimate sharing of human values without pounding you over the head, more like a gentle elbow nudge.
Jonathan Pryce is Nat Dayan the baker; Jerome Holder is exceptional as Ayyash, the teen. We learn about their circumstances in a slow roll out. But it picks up quickly.
The 4 a.m. alarm gets Nat up to open his bakery in this multi-ethnic declining neighborhood. This family-run business has slumped, his son, the lawyer, refuses to take it over; his landlord (Pauline Collins) is a widow on the make who’s not above cutting deals to score a new mate, and there’s a villainous chain supermarket owner (Phillip Davis) who steals Nat’s assistant to create a kosher section in his own store, next door to Nat’s, hoping to drive the old man out of business so he can absorb his shop space.
Ayyash can’t find a job and has fallen into the clutches of a drug dealer. Snippets of his history come out in conversation between him and his mother, Safa (Natasha Gordon)-they were forced to flee violent attacks back home, leaving their father behind, his fate unknown. Safa is the cleaning lady at Nat’s bakery and when he posts the job to replace his lost apprentice, she begs him to take on her son.
Muslim/Jewish tension is present, mostly played out in culturally stereotyped comments they make, but religion means everything to Nat and Ayyash. So their reactions to one another are filtered through their common humanity.
Ayyesh triples Nat’s business by accidentally pouring his pot stash into the dough making everyone very happy, and bringing in throngs of people, from the Rabbi to the Rastafarians to the Bridge Club Ladies, for “the special,” the “one with the poppy seeds.” Suddenly this is a hot business and media soon follows.
Mind you, Nat has no idea what is going on. But Ayyash now owes the dealer a great deal of money for the pot he is baking into the shop’s products, and he hasn’t figured out the way to repay him. The rest of the film becomes both a caper movie and a redemption tale.
Of course, the play on the word dough as money and dough as baking medium are obvious, but this movie, like the smell of fresh baked bread straight out of the oven, is warm to the touch and feeds the soul.
“Dough” opens at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in West LA on April 29. Recommended.
His Art, His Life
Also at the Royal is quite possibly the single-most comprehensive documentary about a living artist ever made, Randall Wright’s “Hockney.”
I make no secret of the fact that I am an unabashed and unapologetic fan of David Hockney’s art. For me it “sparks joy,” to steal a phrase from organizing phenom Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), who appeared at Barnum Hall last week as a Live Talks LA guest speaker.
Hockney is a thinker; in the number of “periods” of his career he rivals the versatility of Picasso, and in his explorations of intellectual concepts about the nature of seeing and depicting time and space, he has expended a great deal of gray matter. He has always been an early adopter of new technologies, from photo collage to fax to iPhone to iPad. In addition to his renowned “pool” paintings, now he’s circled back to painting-spectacularly-the beloved English landscapes of his youth.
You’ll see the process of his art making, how it evolved over time, how it continues to be the reason for his existence, entwining the experiences of his seven-plus-decades life with his work.
“Hockney” lives up to its description as the definitive exploration of one of the most significant artists of his generation. The intimacy comes from the access the artist has given Wright to his personal archive of photographs and film, resulting in an unparalleled visual diary of his life.
It’s been extended at The Royal; so catch it while you can at https://www.laemmle.com.
Moses the Master
Just because he’s 90 years old doesn’t mean that artist Ed Moses is slowing down.
The William Turner Gallery is celebrating his birthday and extraordinary career with an exhibition at its Bergamot Station space, and sprawling into the now-empty Santa Monica Museum of Art space, with huge new canvases and signature artworks spanning the decades.
The opening reception is Saturday, April 30 from 6 to 8 pm; this well-deserved recognition and honoring of one of our local living legends can be viewed through June 25. Details at http://www.williamturnergallery.com.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications.