02 February, 2015

AJFF Buzzes With World Premiere of John Goldschmidt's "Dough" (**)

Jerome Holder, Pauline Collins, Jonathan Pryce co-star in "Dough"

International Emmy Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award-winner Jez Freedman began his script for "Dough" with co-writer Jonathan Benson in 2009. Fast forward five years to last night, when his finished product debuted in two venues for the soon-to-be largest Jewish film festival in the world. The two remaining screenings have long been sold out, the demand due largely in part to Director John Goldschmidt's and leading actor Jonathan Pryce's critically acclaimed backgrounds. But Freedman and Benson are to thank for the rest; their first film together serves a compelling synopsis that elicits (pardon the pun) high expectations.

Nat Dayan (Pryce) owns and operates the kosher bakery his family started in 1947. When a new landlord (Sam Cotton) threatens to squeeze him out of his property by raising the rent and supporting competitors, Nat's falling profits suddenly look less like a slump and more like a crisis. When his assistant quits without warning, the crisis takes flight. He posts an employment ad, and a Muslim teen named Ayyash (played by Jerome Holder) applies to please his mother. But he has an ulterior motive—he needs a cover job for the money he makes selling marijuana. Nat hires him reluctantly, ignorant of the truth, and Ayyash quickly recognizes an opportunity to raise profits. His customers will buy more bread, bagels, and cakes if he augments the bakery's goods with what they really want. But can Ayyash keep this a secret? Is he saving Nat's livelihood or thwarting any chance they have at success?

Jerome Holder and Jonathan Pryce, co-stars of "Dough"
The opening montage is promising. Set to the first track from seasoned composer Lorne Balfe's score, the first minutes follow Nat through his morning rituals. Pryce is compelling and endearing, and the bakery is inviting; the problem is how seldom you're compelled to root for anyone else. Jerome Holder, active in television and film since 1999, overacts to the point of distraction. Ian Hart, who plays Ayyash's drug-dealing boss, Victor, does the best he can with a sensationalized tough guy role. Even the sparkling performance delivered by Pauline Collins (Nat's widowed, original landlord) is lost in the fray of a static screenplay and flat humor.

There were only two other scenes in addition to the first that were able to suspend my deflated enthusiasm. In one, Nat finds Ayyash kneeling and praying in the bakery's back room one morning at sunrise. Goldschmidt contrasts Ayyash's rituals with Nat's in a beautiful fashion rich with reverence. Perhaps sixty minutes later, the (albeit apprehensive) tolerance Nat employs having learned Ayyash is Muslim turns to rage and disappointment once he learns Ayyash has been adding cannabis to the flour day after day. The confrontation is a strong but delicate snapshot of broken trust and misguided intentions; it's the turning point in a socially and culturally surprising partnership. The film harbors multiple peaks in emotion and characterization, but they do not survive its overall lack of smooth editing, laugh-aloud jokes, and memorable music, which was most disappointing given Balfe's varied and accomplished credits ("The Dark Knight," "Inception," and AJFF's opening film "Above and Beyond," to name a few). I look forward to any chance to observe growth from Freedman, Benson, and Holder, but the rare, shining moments in "Dough" rely on Goldschmidt, Pryce, and Collins alone.

2 out of 5 stars.

"Dough" screens twice more during the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival in sold out theaters on February 7th and 17th.


  1. I am confused by Ms. Doughty's review. Perhaps she did not see the same film called "Dough" that I did. My husband and I saw this delightful, life-affirming film on Saturday night at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. To say we loved it would be an understatement. Her comments about Jerome Holder are dead wrong. No memorable, compelling or endearing relationship is ever carried off by one actor nor is there such a thing as a one person relationship. I bet if Mr. Pryce were to read her review he might feel it was she who was disappointing and distracted.
    Perhaps the biggest evidence that Ms. Doughty saw a different film than I is the fact that at the end of the film Saturday night the ENTIRE audience gave Dough a standing ovation. They couldn't have all been wrong! In the future, when Lucy Doughty gives a film a poor review, we must make a point of seeing it because her review could only mean the film is a must-see!!!!!
    Cathy Schiff

    1. That's awfully hasty of you to write off all of her future reviews when you insist she saw an entirely different film.

    2. I agree with Ms. Doughty's review. Although the film has several funny scenes, along with some poignant moments, overall it is formulaic and predictable, much like a TV sitcom. The audience reaction at my theater seemed mildly agreeable (no ovation). I don't regret seeing it, but it could have been a lot better. Rotten Tomatoes 68% rating is about right.

  2. I have to say that I disagree with Ms. Doughty's reveiw. I saw the movie Dough in Atlanta on Sunday. It was AMAZING. It was heartwarming and funny. She must not have a good sense of humor because I was laughing out loud as were the other people in the audience. Maybe she does not know enough about the subject to understand the humor? I recommend this movie to young and old alike! What a wonderful message!

  3. I would like to say that Dough was one of the most impressive movies I have seen in some time. The acting was superb and the message is one that everyone should hear, especially in this day and age. Kudos to John Goldschmidt and his cast and crew for tackling such a sensitive and important subject. A fantatsic movie all should see! Cannot wait until it is released all over so I can take my family to see it with me again!

  4. I have to strongly disagree with Ms. Doughty's reveiw. I also saw "Dough" and found it to be maeningful and delightful. I am a retired teacher who taught middle school for 25years. I have recommended this as a "must see" to all my collgeagues for their students and themselves! The meaning the film teaches is something that should be spread and this movie is an excellent way to reach young people, who are the future.

  5. I have to strongly disagree with Ms. Doughty's reveiw. I also saw "Dough" and found it to be meaningful and delightful. I am a retired teacher who taught middle school for 30 years. I have recommended this as a "must see" to all my collgeagues for their students and themselves! The meaning the film teaches is something that should be spread and this movie is an excellent way to reach young people, who are the future. Sorry made a spelling correction

  6. My husband and I were lucky enough to see this film at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. We loved it!
    DOUGH is a comedic drama. We think it will appeal to both grandparents and teens, its a comedy for all generations, and for both black and white audiences. We hope this film is released soon everywhere because we cannot wait to take our teenage grandchildren!

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  8. I loved this movie that my wife and I recently saw at The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. The acting was excellent! Jonathan Pryce is one of our favorite Brittish actors and we were impressed by new comer Jerome Holder. It is sold out at the Festival in Atlanta so we hope it is released soon so our friends can enjoy it too!

  9. Dough was both an inspiring and heartwarming movie while still having humor. We enjoyed the movie and the audience we sat with gave it rave reviews. The acting was GREAT as was the overall movie. I came home and made Challah! Everyone should see it.