Bad Shabbos – Tribeca 2024

Bad Shabbos. Courtesy of the Tribeca Festival.

Bad Shabbos is going to go down in cinematic history as one of the funniest films to ever take place during a Shabbos dinner.

Meeting the family that your child is marrying into can be stressful. The stress only increases is a child is converting and said family is a religious Jewish family. Let’s not kid ourselves–it is a stressful event for everyone! Add accidental manslaughter into the mix and just about anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Maybe it’s just my sense of humor but once the laughs start up, they never stop! If I watched it by myself, I can only imagine how the audience would respond in a communal environment.

David (Jon Bass) is engaged to Meg (Meghan Leathers). Meg is undergoing a Jewish conversion because it’s important to David and his family. Her Catholic parents, John (John Bedford Lloyd) and Beth (Catherine Curtain), are traveling from Milwaukee to meet David’s family so it’s a really big deal. David’s parents, Richard and Ellen, are hosting for the evening. Abby (Milana Vayntrub) and her boyfriend, Benjamin (Ashley Zukerman), come over and there’s some tension between them. Youngest brother Adam (Theo Taplitz), a wannabe IDF soldier, still lives with his parents. The doorman, Jordan (Cliff “Method Man” Smith), is the type of doorman that knows their Jewish residents. Josh Mostel (Zero’s son) and Stephen Singer also make cameo appearances.

The film’s Tribeca premiere comes at a very trying time for the Jewish community. The community has been hurting since the October 7 attack. At the same time, anti-Jewish hate is continuing to skyrocket across the globe. To say that the laughs in this film are much-needed is not an understatement. Gallows humor is especially in right now, which helps explain why this film hits with me more so than the films that are just missing at the moment. This isn’t to say anything about one’s personal tastes. If anything, it probably says more about how much I need comedies–especially good Jewish comedies–at the moment. It really is my type of comedy as filmmaker Daniel Robbins borrows from the best of them. The director’s notes cites Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Nora Ephron, Neil Simon, etc. as influences.

Do I have issues with the Jewish rituals in the film? Usually, I would but one gets the sense that they want John and Beth out of their condo apartment as quickly as possible? Wouldn’t you? I’m not going to get into the specifics of what happens but again, their family stress only increases the humor in the situation. After all, it is a not a good Shabbos but a Bad Shabbos! Outside of that, all the major objects are on display somewhere between a Chanukiah and mezzuzot. The family keeps kosher and Shabbos so if I had to make a guess, they are somewhere between Conservative and Conservadox.

As far as the Upper West Side goes, the film is an authentic portrayal of what the UWS has to offer. I know New York Jews, I’ve met New York Jews, and this film is essentially a New York Jewish comedy. The only exception being that Shabbos and Yom Tov meals do not include accidental manslaughter. It is not something that is usually on the menu for Shabbos evening. Anyway, they film on location at Barney Greengrass so owner Gary Greengrass has a small role in the film. If you’re a fan of You’ve Got Mail, the lobby will look familiar. The actual apartment itself is elsewhere in a high-rise on 81st Street–chances are likely that I saw it from a distance in March while eating lunch.

Robbins and co-writer Zack Weiner previously teamed up on Citizen Weiner, which premiered at Slamdance this year. After watching this film, I’m now curious to watch it. But again, this one is a home run in my book.

Bad Shabbos takes the best of classic comedies and updates it for today, making it the hysterical Jewish content that is necessary right now. Whichever distributor acquires this film is going to have a hit on its hands! Okay, so it’ll probably be a niche hit with Jewish audiences but there’s still something here for audiences to enjoy!

DIRECTOR: Daniel Robbins
SCREENWRITERS: Zack Weiner & Daniel Robbins
CAST: Jon Bass, Meghan Leathers, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Milana Vayntrub, Theo Taplitz, Ashley Zukerman, Catherine Curtain, John Bedford Lloyd, with David Paymer and Kyra Sedgwick

Bad Shabbos holds its world premiere during the 2024 Tribeca Festival in the Spotlight Narrative program. Grade: 5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.