CFS: ‘Keeping Up with the Steins’

Keith Jones Jr.

In the comedy “Keeping Up with the Steins,” 12-year-old Benjamin Fielder is about to undergo an age-old Jewish initiation rite that will take him from boy to man. But rather than confront the challenge like any other Jewish child, he must tackle something far worse – a bar mitzvah in ultra-exclusive Brentwood, Calif. And this is just the beginning! After attending an elaborate bar mitzvah thrown by their neighbors (the Steins), Benjamin’s parents, Adam, a talent agent, and Joanne, decide to do one better and rent out Dodger Stadium for the occasion. As if standing in front of strangers and reciting Hebrew is not enough, Ben does not even understand the Hebrew words he is required to speak as part of the ceremony. His parents’ misconceptions make the rite less about Benjamin’s growth into manhood and more about their own childish rivalries. As a result, Benjamin is determined to upset their plans, no matter what the cost.

Jeremy Piven plays Adam, who is very similar to his character on the hit HBO series, “Entourage,” in which he also plays a Jewish agent in Hollywood. For the highly competitive father, the need to surpass the Titanic-themed bar mitzvah coordinated by the Steins is overwhelming. However, his own plans are thrown a curve ball (pun intended), as Benjamin invites Adam’s father, Irwin, now a gray-haired hippie, to the event. Even though this would seem rudimentary in most families, Irwin had a falling out with his son after Adam’s own humiliating bar mitzvah. Irwin is compelled to work out his differences with his son, while at the same time assisting his grandson in determining what it means to be a “man.” These somewhat daunting tasks add much meaning to the story and its implications regarding the power of family ties.

It’s accepted that every family is dysfunctional and neurotic in some way, shape or form, and the Fiedlers are certainly no exception. Without revealing too much of the ending, the family ultimately comes to terms with the fact that the precious bonds they have with each other overrule the extravagant bar mitzvahs, no matter how elaborate.

“Keeping Up with the Steins” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema, as part of the Cultural Film and Lecture Series, “Forgiveness”: 7 p.m. on Saturday, 3:30 and 7 p.m. on Sunday and 7 p.m. on Monday. Tickets are $3.50 for students and $5 for everyone else. At Monday evening’s showing, Dr. Sheryl Bowen, director of the Women’s Studies Program, will lead a discussion about the movie.

For more information, please call x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web page: