There is a conceit going back at least to the ’60s where someone is essentially poisoned with marijuana (typically via a brownie) and their life gets magically better. Because, like, they’re not so hung up, man. I’m sure this was done with alcohol in the ’30s and earlier—it probably has roots in an Ancient Roman Vaudeville routine.Although I never have been fond of it, this conceit is particularly dissonant in these days of marijuana legalization and the complications it seems to bring. (There’s a case in Colorado where a guy is claiming edible MJ sent him into a paranoid rage that made him kill his wife. And there’s these two kids sent to the hospital in Massachusetts from brownies. And these two fatalities.) I’m not a fan, as you might gather—though not, on principle, a fan of prohibition either.
Anyway, The Boy and I both watched this with the same viewpoint of “Well, it’s magical Hollywood marijuana that never makes anyone stupid or paranoid.” So, it didn’t bother us too much. The premise is this: Nat (Jonathan Pryce) is an old Jew in England who runs a bakery. Business is bad, and his apprentice is leaving him for a supermarket chain. His son, who decided to pursue law rather than baked goods, would like him to sell the place and retire on the money, but instead Nat gets a new apprentice—the son of his African cleaning lady, Ayyash.
Ayyash has different plans in mind. He wants to get his mom (and himself) out the state-supplied housing, and he can’t do that with bakery money. But the job provides him cover to deal drugs, and he ends up in a short time as a very successful weedmonger. The increased traffic brings in more business to the bakery as well, pleasing Nat.
Hilarity ensues when some reefer ends up in the dough by mistake, and demand for the cHappy Challah goes through the roof. (Because ganja makes everything better! And nobody’s ever allergic to it or made paranoid, or impaired while operating heavy machinery.) Meanwhile, Ayyash is learning the self-respect that comes from having a real trade, even if he is a bit squeamish at the thought of using the blood of goyim children in the bread. (Joking, of course, but he actually states this reservation up front and his mom slaps him. In real life, the odds she might also believe this would be pretty high?)
So, there’s your tension: Ayyash and Nat begrudgingly form a Muslin/Jew bond even as Ayyash is betraying him by poisoning his customers. Still, the proceedings are kept pretty light, and all resolve cheerfully with a silly caper.
Director John Goldschmidt hasn’t directed a movie since 1987’s Maschenka and went through the entire first decade without producing anything either (though with the Brits, especially, they’re busy doing stage work), but caveats aside it’s a fun enough film. Pryce is excellent, of course, and he has good chemistry with young Jerome Holder, so we can Buy The World A Coke And Ignore The Vastly Increasing Muslim Population That Threatens The Jews.
I mean, seriously: It’s hard to not notice that the moviemakers of the world seem determined to treat Muslim/Jew problems as if they were the same as black/white problems, delivering the same sort of “Can’t we all just get along?” message even as one of the main characters of the film sincerely believes the other uses blood to make his bread.
But, yes, get past the pro-pot message, and the moral equivalence message, and you’ll have yourself a good time. We did.*
*But, you know: Caveats.