The Bar Mitzvah from Hell-And Heaven

Article excerpt

"Some boys don't get picked in life." So begins Sixty Six, the "true-ish" tale of 12-year-old Bernie Rubens (Gregg Sulkin) and the most important day of his young Jewish life: his bar mitzvah. Unfortunately for this English boy, the celebration coincides with the 1966 World Cup final in a country where soccer is sacred. Director Paul Weiland (Made of Honor, City Slickers II, Mr. Bean TV series) scores a goal with this charming coming-of-age film that draws on his childhood memories of Jewish London and examines the meaning of family relationships.

The film is propelled by the refusal of Bernie's parents--Manny (Eddie Marsan) and Esther (Helena Bonham Carter)--to move the date of the bar mitzvah because of a mere sporting event. Terrified that no one will show up to witness his transformation from boy to man, Bernie becomes the only Brit hoping that the national team fails to make the final round. Just in case God does not answer his prayers at the temple, Bernie embraces voodoo and throws in a few Spanish curses for good measure.

For Bernie, his bar mitzvah is a chance to put an end to his invisibility within his family. He toils tirelessly on the invitations, the seating arrangements and the ingredients of Bloody Marys to make this "the Gone with the Wind of bar mitzvahs ... the Jesus Christ of bar mitzvahs."

Those dreams are further threatened when Fine Fare, a new supermarket, opens on the same block as the Rubens & Son grocery store. Even as other shop owners reconcile themselves to the inevitable, Manny stubbornly tells the Fine Fare manager, "We're Jewish. And if you know your Bible, you know that we have a habit of taking on Goliaths and winning. And if there is one thing that you can count on the English doing, it is backing the underdog."

The Rubens family's eccentric personalities are crucial to the film's authenticity. Manny is a reserved yet strangely compulsive man embittered by life's disappointments. He is so obsessed with cleanliness that he lays carpet on carpet to keep it spotless. He is terrified of dogs and taxes and his idea of a wedding toast is to recite the names of departed relatives. In contrast, Manny's handsome, kind and funny younger brother Jimmy (Peter Serafinowicz) always manages to look on the bright side of things, further fueling Manny's resentment. …