Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sixty-Six: Chimp ... The Mensch, All Grows Up

What does it mean to become a man or, according to the movie “Sixty-Six” – “What does it mean to become a Mensch?”. That is the through-line of “Sixty-Six”, the movie we watched last night. A movie both Paul and I loved for a variety of reasons. Right off the bat, “Sixty-Six” is simply a great comedy which is set in 1966 London, particularly July of 1966. The main character is Bernie Rueben, a boy about to become a man. That is the myth anyway, surrounding the once in a lifetime event of every Jewish boy who is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Except for Bernie nothing comes off without a hitch and this goes for his family as well, particularly his father, played by Eddie Marsan (remember In Rah Hah?).

Like most Jewish stories there is always the element of tragedy, following closely on the heels of comedy, and so to be more accurate, “Sixty-Six” could easily be dubbed as a Comic-Tragedy. Adding to the flavour of the movie is the time period. The film captures the mood of the sixties so well, with it’s vibrant colours, the cultural change that’s in the air and the dynamics that emerge within a family that is trying to survive living on the cusp of one of its members who is about to come of age. Yet at the same time, not quite managing to traverse this rocky ground due to a fair degree of internal and familial dysfunction, this family finds it hard to come out on top. It is much easier to ignore those around you when the chaos of everyday life threatens to swallow you up and for Bernie, this is an invitation; a beckoning to create an inner life, full of dreams and schemes. Bernie finds himself trying to escape a family who doesn’t understand him, let alone acknowledge his existence, a choice that offers some relief but only momentarily.

The inner and the outer clash around the cultural event of the 1966 World Cup sets the stage. Without giving too much away, this particular event becomes Bernie’s nemesis and yet, like any good Jewish tale, this nemesis is something to contend with, wrestle with and finally something to learn from. An endeavor, not necessarily pain-free but that’s for you to find out.

“Sixty-Six” is great on the comedic level, as well, it’s great at giving us, forty years later, a snapshot into the life of a simple family, eeking out their existence during a very significant time in England’s sporting history. This snapshot is also a way into these particular lives, with all it’s losses and loves; the smaller narrative being swept up by the larger narrative. “Sixty-Six” is endearing, but it manages to leave the viewer with things to ponder and appreciate. And in the end, our question of “what does it mean to become a man/human” gets a little deeper.