Footnote: a comedy of awkwardness reveals two guys choosing misery

A rising Talmudic scholar sees his career-topping prize accidentally awarded to his grumpy father.  This potentially comic situation reveals a character study of the two men.  At the beginning, we see the father as bitterly sullen.  As the story peels back the onion, we see the pomposity and narcissism in both men.

As you would think from watching the trailer, the first two-thirds of the film is very funny.  In fact, the scene of an academic meeting in a cramped office is one of the funniest moments you’ll see in any movie this year.  However, once the father makes a discovery, the movie darkens as the two men miss every chance to grasp selflessness.

As the end of the movie nears, the filmmakers create tension that makes the ending too abrupt for me, with too little payoff.  I think that the filmmakers of A Separation, by winding down the end of the movie, created a much successful ambiguous ending.

I admired Footnote more than I liked it, and, indeed, the critical consensus warmed to the film more than I.  Footnote won the screenplay award at Cannes and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

Capturing the essence of the film perfectly, Roger Ebert wrote, “The Talmud provides guidance to Jews about how to lead their lives, but these two Jews have learned nothing that helps them when they find themselves in an impossible situation.”

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