Jesse Eisenberg is an actor who has the rare ability to span both the serious drama and comedy genres. `Holly Rollers' is a film that fits squarely into the serious drama bracket, but perhaps should be pushed further into the dull drama bracket. Eisenberg play Sam, an Orthodox Jew who is tricked into carrying drug on a plane; rather than learning from his mistake Sam realises that this is an easy way to make money. His criminality is diametrically opposite to the values of his friends and family, will he repent before it is too late?
`Holly Rollers' is a film that is hard to like, because so many of the people involve seem alien or unlikable. The Orthodox Jewish society is a closed one so it should be interesting that director Kevin Asch has chosen to peer inside. However, rather than making the viewer relate with the family of Sam, you feel just as alienated as he does. In many ways the family's strict lifestyle is to blame for Sam's actions. I'm not sure if this lack of sympathy is due to inadequate direction and acting on the part of the film makers, or my own inability to understand. Either way, with the moral compass of the film being off it is hard to care about anyone at all.
Eisenberg himself does not fare much better as he plays such as wimpish character that he soon becomes unlovable. Rather than facing his issues he chooses to whine about them. The one glimmer of light is Justin Bartha as the fallen Yosef. Bartha is able to bring some life into an otherwise near death film. Directed on a relatively low budget, Asch paints a grey world that is not great to look at, so High Definition is not really needed. The extras show that the intentions behind the filmmakers were good, but perhaps the tone was wrong.