Black comedy, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts, in Hebrew with subtitles, 2.5 chiles
When two movies with the same title come out in the same year, there’s potential for confusion. So let’s clear that up right here: this Stockholm is not the Ethan Hawke crime drama about the 1973 hostage crisis that gave us the term “Stockholm syndrome.”
This one is an Israeli TV miniseries, shoehorned into a feature film format, about a top Israeli economist, Avishai Sar-Shalom (Gidi Gov), who ends up dead a few days before the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Economics, for which he is a leading contender.
To be eligible for a Nobel, you have to be alive at the time the prize is announced. This presents an ethical and strategic dilemma for his small core group of septuagenarian friends: Amos (Sasson Gabai, The Band’s Visit), Nilli (Tikva Dayan), Yehuda (Doval’e Glickman), and Zohara (Liora Rivlin). Winning means prestige, both for Avishai and for his country, and also a hefty chunk of change: 9 million kronor, which translates into about 3.5 million shekels, or nearly a million dollars. The trick is to keep his death a secret until the Swedes make the announcement.
It’s a premise rife with the potential for black comedy. It worked 30 years ago for Weekend at Bernie’s, and it starts off promisingly here, with four veteran comic actors and a rapidly paling corpse. Zohara, who has been sleeping with Avishai for years, is telling him about her annoying day when she discovers that he has left the planet. She soon involves the other three pals, and they come up with strategies for postponing the funeral to keep him eligible for the big score.
In its TV form, Stockholm had four episodes, each running 40 minutes, and here they are simply spliced end to end (as I saw it, with credits punctuating each one). Do the math, and that comes to two hours and 40 minutes. In this era of binge-watching, that may work fine at home on the couch with trips to the liquor cabinet, but something as light and quirky as this makes for a long and unforgiving stretch in a movie theater. The performances are good, and there are funny twists of plot, some of which work better than others. But after a while, the chuckles ebb, the smiles fade, and you’re facing another episode and a half. — Jonathan Richards
Stockholm screens at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at CCA.