A Price Above Rubies

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
A Price Above Rubies Movie Poster Image
Intense drama about Orthodox Jews has mature themes, sex.
  • R
  • 1998
  • 116 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A Price Above Rubies espouses positive messages about forging your own identity, finding where you belong, standing up for yourself, and doing the right thing, even in the face of great difficulty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are complex, troubled, and well-meaning but often ignorant of their own effect on others. Some are deeply religious but lack compassion; have high standing in the community but commit rape; claim to love their spouses but refuse to see them as individuals; and struggle to be good and faithful to God while ignoring their own families. These are realistic portraits that show the good and bad in people, often simultaneously, while also showing that good people can become corrupted and that seemingly forgettable people have dreams and wishes and passions that may not always be obvious.

Violence

The film contains a handful of instances of intercourse under duress. There is no nudity during these acts, though the male character initiates and forces the sex nonviolently through manipulation and intimidation. A boy is presumed to have drowned and is shown walking into the woods to swim, later appearing as a ghost throughout the film. A baby is shown appearing to get a circumcision and crying, and the sound of cutting is heard but not shown.

Sex

The film contains multiple scenes of intercourse under duress. No nudity, but clear coercion and manipulation that are difficult to watch. In another scene, a husband and wife have perfunctory intercourse, then argue about what he's thinking while having sex with her. A woman is shown naked from the back, bathing. A woman is shown breastfeeding an infant, with her shoulder and breast exposed. A naked woman and man undressed to underwear to lounge for a portrait. A few instances of passionate kissing. A man and woman lie in bed as if to show the morning after intercourse.

Language

Profanity throughout, including a few instances of "f--k," as well as "bulls--t," "fat ass," and "going to hell."

 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drinks wine at dinner; a man drinks a beer outside.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Price Above Rubies is a movie about an Orthodox Jewish woman's awakening that involves a few scenes of forced intercourse through manipulation and coercion, a scene of intercourse between a man and his wife, some use of "f--k," profanity throughout, and mature themes about relationships, sexuality, and love. Although it's an interesting film about a niche community not often covered and explores interesting questions about religious faith and the role of passion within it, it's not meant for or suitable for kids.

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What's the story?

Sonia (Renee Zellweger) is unhappily married to Mendel (Glenn Fitzgerald), a devout Jew who would rather spend his evenings counseling his fellow rabbis than with his wife. When her brother-in-law Sender (Christopher Eccleston) offers her a job buying jewelry for him in the city, she's excited until he begins to made demands on her beyond employment in exchange for the opportunity. Now Sonia must learn that everything has a price, including her own freedom, and reconcile her feelings about her marriage, her identity as a career woman and mother, and her place in a religious community that feels alien to her, all while being guided by the ghost of her younger brother, who drowned as a boy.

Is it any good?

A Price Above Rubies is an interesting film about a niche community we don't often see -- Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn. It offers a glimpse into the everyday experiences of their lives, struggles, and relationships, as told through a woman who sees it as an outsider. The characters are complex and interesting as they struggle to do their version of good and reconcile it against their passions, all within a community that values masculine intelligence and female obedience and imposes narrow, restrictive ideals about faith and goodness. There's a bit of a mafia-like sensibility to the way the culture is portrayed, but at the center of the story is a worthwhile question about whether women can ever have true agency and autonomy when so much is demanded of them as wives and mothers first. It's well-acted, if a bit heavy-handed, and raises some fascinating questions about art, faith, and passion. But the forced intercourse, intimidation, exploration of sexuality and autonomy here are much too mature for kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how men are portrayed in this culture versus women.

  • What is the film's attitude about passion versus family or religious commitment?

  • How does the film view arranged marriage? What other depictions of arranged marriage have you seen? Are they positive or negative? What do you think the pros and cons of arranged marriage are?

Movie details

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