Picks and Pans Review: A Stranger Among Us
Before you can say mazel tov, she has shed her policewoman-feminist carapace, eagerly working with the women to prepare Sabbath dinner, becoming fast friends with a demure Hasid (Mia Sara) and even falling in love with one of the enclave's most devout, scholarly residents—Thal, in a nice debut.
Director Sidney (Q & A) Lumet made the regrettable choice of sacrificing credible character development and a worthy script for the sake of maintaining Hasidic authenticity and attenuated scenes of religious observances. Pollan is truly dreadful as the murder victim's scenery-chewing fiancée, while Griffith is scarcely more convincing as a smart-mouthed undercover detective infiltrating Crown Heights than she was portraying a smart-mouthed half-Jewish spy infiltrating the Third Reich in Shining Through.
But even actresses who don't sound like Minnie Mouse on helium would have difficulty making plausible such lines as. "I do what I want when I want. I'm an independent woman" and "You people really care about each other.
"What's new and exciting?" is Griffith's opening gambit in every conversation she has in A Stranger Among Us. What's new and exciting, Mel? In this film, nothing. (PG-13)