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April 24, 2023 10:57 am

Jewish Actor Judd Hirsch Delivers a Great Performance in ‘iMordecai’

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avatar by Alan Zeitlin


Judd Hirsch and Carol Kane in “iMordecai.” Photo: Provided.

In “iMoredcai,” Judd Hirsch — a two-time Emmy winner, who just received an Oscar nomination for his role in “The Fabelmans” — plays a man who fled Poland and escaped the Holocaust, though some of his family didn’t.

We see an animated segment where his ball goes into the next yard, and the neighbor chases him and tells his father, “Get your Jew rat son the hell off my property.” Some of his family members were killed in Treblinka..

Hirsch plays Mordecai Samel, who is now 80, and has a flip phone that is ready for the garbage and a car that leaks and has water in it. He has helped his son, Marvin (Sean Astin), fund a business for cigars. He befriends Nina (Azia Dinea Hale), who is patient with Mordecai and teaches him how to use his new iPhone, which is no easy feat.

Mordecai says that he mostly enjoys klezmer music, and is amazed he can hear it again, though by accident he leaves the store with headphones he didn’t pay for. His wife, Fela, played by Carol Kane, has dementia and thinks her husband is having an affair. Marvin feels that Mordecai is bad luck, and is hoping that a man named Fernando Vasquez may buy his company.

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In a touching moment, when a friend who is a comedian is dying on stage because his material is terrible, Mordecai gets on stage and talks about being a plumber and a painter, and pretending to be two different people.

It is rare for a live-action film to include animated sequences at different times, including one where Hitler and Stalin shake hands, signifying the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, but all the scenes mesh well together.

Mordecai says he’s not ready to be an old man. Hirsch is 88 and still rocking. There’s a sweet moment when Mordecai and Fela sing in Yiddish and kiss.

Mordecai smokes weed at a party, and says the last time he smoked it, he was driving an IDF army truck across Egypt. Mordecai doesn’t understand why Nina is so nice to him, until she tells him an awful secret about her grandfather. Mordecai also yearns to remember what his mother’s face looked like.

Mordecai’s son doesn’t treat him well, and more could have been done in the business deal scenes. But other than that, this is a sweet film that is anchored by Hirsch’s performances. Directed by Marvin Samel, this film is handled with the right amount of care, and what it lacks in flash, it makes up with in feeling

The film is based on a real story, as Marvin Samel had a kiosk in the World Trade Center Mall for premium cigars, and he later moved to Florida. It’s the rare love story of an elderly couple, and Mordecai handles his wife’s declining condition with grace and love.

The author is a writer based in New York.

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