Last week, I finally saw Dough.
I’d seen so much publicity about it, I wondered if it would ever get to Dallas. From what I’d read, I expected a lighthearted comedy; what I got was much different, but much, much more.
Was I disappointed? No! Surprised? Yes! I laughed some, but I thought a great deal, too, because this film touches on so many prominent issues in our country today.
First off: street kids, both white and black, making money by selling drugs for a tyrannical grower/distributor. Then, in no special order: Muslim non-trust and actual hostility toward Jews — and vice-versa. Everyone assuming that any and every black person is from Africa. A poor mother working her tail off at two jobs just to keep herself and her son afloat in an apartment so decrepit that, somewhere during the movie, it really does float!
Yes, these are our very own U.S. issues, even though Dough is set in England. Yes, there are some things unfamiliar to us here, like “tea dances” (with all the men wearing kippot). But what happens when poverty is the prime motivator in a good-sized segment of society, when sons decline to take over the old family businesses, when widows overtly seek new husbands, when money-hungry businessmen go about their business-as-usual — those things we see on screen here are things we already know very, very well.
These elements are played out by characters so true to life, it’s almost easy to forget this is fiction. An old frum baker with problems of both location and help in his business; a young boy who will do whatever he has to just to exist; a delightful little girl with a sour-faced father, both the baker’s flesh and blood. The genius of Dough is in the clever ways its creators have found to bring everything together. Who would have guessed before this that little bags of “pot” could work truly productive miracles? We all know they cause trouble, but here, there’s a real pot of gold at the end of the elusive rainbow.
Why is a man who must get up at 4 a.m., who always keeps his head covered and lays tefillin every day, forced into a couple of really bad situations? Why does a boy who prays daily to Allah do things on purpose that lead him deeper and deeper into other activities that have inevitably bad endings? Ah — that’s how the feel-good promise is kept. Film, after all, knows the way to take a story with lots of problems and untie all its knots so that the ends will wind up together in a very pretty bow.
Well, we know real life isn’t that way — at least not most of the time. But somehow, in Dough, all those bad situations and bad outcomes turn into an ending designed to send every viewer home happy. (Although I will confess that at one pivotal moment, I was looking at that man and that boy and thinking about Thelma and Louise…)
However, although everybody I talked to as we left the theater had enjoyed the movie, no one was ha-ha laughing, so I guess I wasn’t the only one still wearing a thinking cap. But now, I can doff that imaginary hat in tribute to whoever first thought of this story line, and to those many folks behind the scenes, as well as the ones in front of the camera, who together turned it into a first-rate piece of entertainment, which I define as something that does more than simply amuse. There were parts in it that made me very uncomfortable, but those were the moments I realized my discomfort was because they are so very real.
So after all, I think the highest praise I can give Dough, with its inspired and fully realized conjunction of clever fantasy and downright honesty, is to say that it’s a long way away from being half-baked!
Last week, I finally saw Dough.