'Max Minsky' set for Jewish Film Festival

Movie is about 13-year-old girl learning to play hoops

April 03, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Poor Nelly. She's 13, hopelessly in love with the prince of Luxembourg and desperately in need of a good jump shot. What's a girl to do?

In Anna Justice's delightful Max Minsky and Me, Sunday's offering in the 21st annual Baltimore Jewish Film Festival, the answer is clear: get someone to teach her how to play basketball, so she can get on her school team and make it to the big tournament in Luxembourg, where the hunky 16-year-old prince, a big-time hoops fan, will doubtlessly notice her. Their ensuing (and inevitable) mutual attraction will take care of everything else.

Oh, to be 13 again, where such are the problems of life. Justice, working off a script from Holly-Jane Rahlens, neglects neither the life-and-death urgency facing poor Nellie, nor the utter frivolousness of her "dilemma." She understands that one doesn't negate the other, resulting in a film that's insightful, amusing and just a little bit melancholic.

Young Zoe Moore, who in real life turns 16 this month, is alternately heartbreaking and amusing as Nelly; best of all, she's never precious. Newcomer Emil Reinke plays Nelly's reluctant hoops tutor, Max Minksy, with appropriate sullenness; he's a rebel who wishes everybody would just leave him alone, and only agrees to coach the brainy Nelly after she offers to both pay him and do his homework. Adding welcome emotional (and adult) weight to the proceedings is Adriana Altaras as Nelly's mom, who refuses to understand why her daughter would rather practice hoops than prepare for her bat mitzvah.

Showtime for "Max Minsky and Me" (in German, with English subtitles) is 3 p.m. Sunday at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. in Owings Mills. Future films in the festival include "The Clown and the Fuhrer" (7:30 p.m. April 13), based on a real-life imbroglio between a celebrated Jewish clown and a Gestapo officer who wants to be part of his act; and "The Monster Among Us" (7:30 p.m. May 14), a documentary look at anti-Semitism in six European countries. Tickets are $9. Information: baltimorejff.com or 410-542-4900, ext. 239.

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