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Focus

Director:Neal Slavin
Writer:Kendrew Lascelles
Paramount; PG-13; 104 minutes
Release:11/01
Cast:William Macy, Laura Dern, David Paymer

Focus is about a man whose life changes when he buys a pair of glasses. The place is a Brooklyn neighborhood, the time is World War II. The buzz is the air is xenophobia. Lawrence Newman's (William Macy) new glasses mark him as Jewish in this film adaptation of an Arthur Miller novel. Battered by the war and bolstered into false unity in the guise of patriotism, Lawrence's neighborhood slowly slips under the spell of an anti-Semitic preacher's radio broadcasts. Lawrence's mild subservience soon bites him as he becomes a victim of the phobia, and turns to Gertrude (Laura Dern) for help, a woman he once shunned for her Jewish looks.

The words witch hunt spring to mind, as does Miller's excellent play, The Crucible, which used the Salem witch trials to speak on the very same injustices as Focus. This well-meaning film panders to its audience. Focus preaches '40s-era tolerance with a slightly surreal edge, but is too satisfied with its moral correctness to deal with the issues in a contemporary manner.


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