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The Tollbooth (Unrated)

Release Date: February 3rd, 2006 (Quad Cinema) by Castle Hill Productions.
The Cast: Marla Sokoloff, Liz Stauber, Rob McElhenney, Idina Menzel, Jayce Bartok, Ronald Guttman, Tovah Feldshuh.
Directed by Debra Kirschner.

BASIC PREMISE: Three sisters, Sarabeth (Sokoloff), Becky (Stauber), and Raquel (Menzel) seek approval about their love life from their strict, Jewish parents.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: In The Tollbooth , the Cohen family goes through a variety of dramatic conflicts. Immediately after Raquel announces her engagement to financially-successful Howie (Bartok) during a holiday dinner, Becky comes out of the closet. The way she bluntly interrupts their celebration comes across as unintentionally funny give how much drama there could be in one evening. Tova Feldshuh gives a terrific performance as their overbearing mother who blames Becky’s lesbianism on too much work stress. Ronald Guttman plays their equally overbearing father. Making the plot more chaotic, Sarabeth dates a Catholic young man named Simon (McElhenney) without her mother’s approval. Soon, she moves into a Manhattan apartment with Simon and tries to balance her new job as a catering waitress with her passion for painting, which her parents don’t approve of either. The witty script blends some well-needed, although awkward humor among all of the serious drama. For example, when Howie’s business bankrupts him, he and Raquel suddenly ask to move in with her parents, which is the last place they would want to live. In another scene, Sarabeth meets Howie’s waspy family and not only brings wine as a barbeque gift, but gives a special painting to one of Howie’s sisters who is about to get married. This painting excites the sister much more than another present she received from anyone at the party. Writer/director Debra Kirschner succeeds in making each sister unique and, above all, likeable. The third act does have a few predictable, contrived scenes, especially with Becky and her new lesbian partner. However, it’s refreshingly realistic that not all of the conflicts have closure—unlike in The Family Stone .

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Love comes in many different forms, often with obstacles along the way. No matter what, it’s important to have the love and support of your family. The scenes when Sarabeth comforts Becky feel heartwarming and touching. Their well-meaning parents don’t really understand them, but at least they want them to be happy. They apply the same norms to their children that their own parents applied to them, but, in reality, norms tend to evolve along with society.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A few predictable and contrived scenes.


IN A NUTSHELL: Smart, witty, and heartwarming! A refreshingly modern update of Fiddler on the Roof !

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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