Do you like drugs? Do you like New York? Do you like rave culture? Do you like the idea of highly religious people combining all these things and turning their back on said religion? Well, maybe this is the film for you!
This is an interesting based-on-a-true-story film that examines the twin traditional/stereotypical vocations of the Jewish people - business and religion. Schmul (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young Jewish man in New York's Hasidic quarter. He has business acumen but his ambitiousness is stifled by his father's strict adherence to Hasidism (Jewish orthodoxy). They are a poor but pious family, but they're also happy. Schmul becomes bored of this missionary-like lifestyle and wants bette rfinancial prospects so he can marry. As it stands the religious poverty of his family means that no one wants to marry him, least of all the girl he likes. These factors draw Schmul towards the freer lifestyle of his neighbour and friend Yosef (Justin Bartha), a fellow Hasidic Jew who smuggles ecstasy for Israeli drug dealers.
The beauty of Holy Rollers is that it's as much about these naive guys interacting with the wider world as it is about ambition and drugs. Schmul is a perfect drug mule, he looks so traditional and innocent that no one would suspect him of transporting drugs from Amsterdam to New York. Holy Rollers is about the seduction of an attractive lifestyle but it also draws upon Jewish philosophy, such as knowing where one stands in relation to Earthly pleasures. The film traces the paths to ruin in clear, definable terms - for Yosef it comes via greed, whereas Schmul plays a dangerous game with a druglord's girl and doesn't play dumb enough to not be considered a threat. Dealing drugs isn't compatible with who he is, in this sense the film is his coming-of-age.
This naturalistic indie memoir should appeal to anyone who likes films like Blow and Half Nelson. File it under 'stranger than fiction', and watch it for Jesse Eisenberg's performance; he showcases a maturing sense of depth and plays his role with real emotional intensity beyond anything I ever expected of him.