Various Positions (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Various Positions relates the story of a love affair between Josh, a college student from a conservative Jewish family and, Cheryth, a completely secular young half-Jewish woman who moves into the neighboring dorm room. Josh's parents are orthodox, and extremely punctilious in their observations of Jewish law. His father, for example, is considering disinterring every body in a Jewish cemetery because a non-Jew was unknowingly buried there. As conservative as they are, his parents seem like atheists compared to his younger brother, who appears to be only about fourteen years old and yet has apparently memorized the entire body of Jewish law and teachings from the time of Moses to the present day, including all various scholarly interpretations and debates.

Josh is not very religious, but he avoids disrespecting his parents, so when he's around them he hides his 7-Eleven Ham Burritos and plays the unleavened bread game. Needless to say, Cheryth is just not Jewish enough for Josh's family. No surprise there. Moses wouldn't have been Jewish enough for this group. Josh's dad offers him three options: get Cheryth to convert to orthodoxy, dump her, or be banished forever from their family. In some cases, Josh's answer might have been a middle finger, but this is a complicated situation. First of all, he truly respects his dad, who survived the holocaust to become a famous attorney, and his mom, who was instrumental in the founding of Israel. In addition, he really doesn't know Cheryth that well. He likes her. He loves her as much as a man may love a woman he just met, but he's also seen worrisome elements of her personality and Josh wonders if their tenuous love connection is deep enough to make him turn his back on his family.

How does the dilemma get resolved? Well, I reckon you'll have to watch the movie to find that out, but I can reveal that the film does not offer any simplistic Hollywood solutions. Dude, it's not a Reese Witherspoon movie. It's complicated, like life itself.

In fact, this film is about as far from a Hollywood movie as any North American film can be. That presents measures of good and bad. The strongest element of the film is that the script is about lovers who have to make decisions which will affect the rest of their lives, long after the events portrayed in an 81 minute movie, rather than the Hollywood approach of  "lovers embrace, music swells, closing credits scroll because they are back together and nothing else matters, dammit!" The obverse side of the anti-Hollywood coin is that Various Positions has about zero commercial appeal, and lots of moments which ring of "Hey, kids, my dad has a barn, let's put on a show!"  It was written and directed by a Canadian film school student. The film's star also wrote some of the musical score. It was filmed entirely on digital video in mundane locations. The budget appears to have been in the range of eleven dollars - and that's not eleven greenbacks, but eleven dollars worth of pink and purple Beaver Bucks. In spite of that nagging amateurishness, however, the film is at least an earnest attempt to portray real people trying to work their way through difficult situations, and it portrays life as complex rather than simple. It does not offer a facile "love conquers all" message, not does it scorn parents who adhere to traditional values despite the pressures of the modern world. There is much to be said for that, even when the situations are not easy for us to identify with.

Can I say it is a bad movie? Absolutely not. It has merit, but its quiet successes will be celebrated by only a tiny audience. I would never have watched it if Carly Pope had not done a sex scene, and I found it both tedious and painfully amateurish at times, but I also liked and admired it at other times.



  • No features.
  • The transfer is widescreen, but letterboxed, not anamorphically enhanced, and is not especially vivid



Carly Pope show her breasts in a lovemaking session.

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The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-, an earnest effort, almost painfully earnest. It is not a bad movie, but will appeal to a miniscule audience.

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