Carry on abroad – Rediscovering ‘Not Quite Jerusalem’ (UK 1985 – 114 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - April 04, 2014
Carry on abroad – Rediscovering ‘Not Quite Jerusalem’ (UK 1985 – 114 mins)

Also known as ‘Not Quite Paradise’, this pleasant little movie covers quite a few genres. A kibbutz comedy drama, the film is also part romance, adventure and even thriller.

The story involves a group of volunteers from all over the world, who arrive at an Israeli kibbutz for the chance to work and experience its distinctive daily life. Some of the group are lost souls seeking refuge, others are just there for the adventure and to have a good time. Initially put off by their experience, after various dramas and some terrifying moments, they eventually come to respect and appreciate their time there.

The movie’s climax takes a sudden, unexpected turn into thriller territory, as Arab terrorists hijack and hold hostage a tourist group (including some of the volunteers), in one of the city’s ancient ruins. The movie gives a very subtle hint at the possible terror to come, with a freeze-frame at an airport in the opening scene. This dramatic gear change may seem a little out of place with the rest of the movie, but it does bring home the realities of being an innocent abroad.

The international cast is very good, with each character given their own storyline. Sam Robards (son of Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall) plays Mike, a young American medical student, and Polish beauty Joanna Pacula is Gila, the local organizer whom Mike falls for. The excellent British actor Kevin McNally has an early role, and almost steals the movie as Pete, a happy-go-lucky, wannabe ladies man who’s lumbered with a bad tempered fellow Brit, (Bernard Strother), who himself has some very funny moments. The other volunteers include Selina Cadell as a fussy spinster, Kate Ingram as a man-mad Aussie, and ‘Titanic’ actor; Ewan Stewart, as an emotionally scarred Army veteran. Also having some funny scenes is Todd Graff, who is very good as the wonderfully named Rothwell T. Schwartz, a Jewish nerd finding love outside his community, much to the horror of his doting mother.

The movie was not a success, but has acquired a minor fan base over the years, (myself included). Director Lewis Gilbert did not consider this movie one of his better ones. After all, this was the man who made such classics as ‘Alfie’ (6) and ‘Educating Rita’ (’83). The addictive violin music score was by Italian composer Rondò Veneziano, who used a reworking of music from his popular ‘Venice in Peril’ album, including the famous piece; “La Serenissima”. Scottish actor Paul Kember adapted the screenplay from his own play. Kember is most fondly remembered as the bumbling policeman in ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (’81).

I think ‘Not Quite Jerusalem’ was unfairly maligned at the time. The story and characters may be clichéd, but as a fish-out-of-water comedy-drama, it works rather well. The cast is uniformly excellent, and handle the more serious scenes very well. The ambitiousness of the story may not have appealed to many critics, but casual film viewers will enjoy the movie for what it is, a comedy of manners mixing romance and drama.

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