Esther Kahn

"OK"

Esther Kahn Review


They say that even the most accomplished actor still has something to prove, that no matter how much adoration he might receive, there is always some sacrosanct person or place where the performer turns to face critical judgment. Esther Kahn, directed by Arnaud Desplechin, is the story of a young actress who battles those harsh demons in order to achieve a sense of accomplishment.

Raised in tenement housing in late-19th century London and forced to live the suppressed life of a sweatshop laborer in a Jewish slum, Esther Kahn (Summer Phoenix) uses the theater as an escape from the harsh realities of everyday life. As a child, her brother and sisters find her awkward because of her abnormal silence and infatuation with the low-budget Yiddish performances put on by the local neighborhood troupes. As the family outcast, she internalizes all the loathing she receives from her mother (Frances Barber) and family, which leads to a desperate search for her place in the world.

Esther's stubbornness and conviction eventually lead her to the stage where she seems to have a knack for totally immersing herself into each character. But she seems to be missing a few key ingredients preventing her from landing that coveted leading role. Auspiciously, she encounters the prodigious yet tainted Nathan (Ian Holm), an aging outcast of an actor whom she reluctantly accepts as her mentor. Nathan, however, can only teach her so much about the nuances of stage performance: Esther needs to experience for herself life's turbulent emotions in order to effectively render them on stage. Thus, her ascetic upbringing as a silent outcast must be overcome.

She then immerses herself into a dark and surprisingly cinematic London in search of self-expression. At this point the film is at its best as Esther faces a triage of challenges: from her quest for love, to her growth from Nathan's tutelage, and ultimately the pursuit of self-fulfillment; she shows extraordinary determination.

Phoenix ably conveys the complexity of Esther's character. In one shockingly intense scene she wildly pummels her face because she is unable to cope with heartbreak and the pressure of performing. However, the nature of Esther's societal ailments are often ambiguous -- leading one to question whether or not she has genuine mental problems or whether her unique talents are the result of pure genius unable to conform. In comparison, Holm flawlessly pulls off his role as mentor, proving invaluable to the development of Esther's character along with strengthening Summer Phoenix's performance.

To its detriment, the film's blaring score is reminiscent of '70s classroom fodder a la The Red Balloon and often clashes with the somber tone. Plus, at two hours and 25 minutes, Esther's hardships begin to feel like a grueling marathon stuck on those last few miles with no end in sight.

On the other hand, if you are an actor who can relate to the search for inner peace by dramatically depicting the lives of others onstage, then Esther's story is a compelling quest for truth. It teaches a valuable lesson of persistence and how difficult answering to that beast from within can be.

And Esther danced the night away.



Esther Kahn

Facts and Figures

Run time: 142 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 4th October 2000

Distributed by: Le Studio Canal Plus

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 12

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , , Grégoire Sorlat

Starring: as Esther Kahn, as Nathan Quellen

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.