StoryNeal Slavin's surreal adaptation of Arthur Miller's 1945 novel Focus is as didactic as it is genuinely harrowing. Written as an illumination of the rampant anti-Semitism that Miller experienced as a young man in wartime New York, the film is a suffocating fable of the perils of conformism, which repeatedly corners the viewer into wondering what he or she would do in Lawrence Newman's shoes. Set near the end of World War II, Focus posits a grim, nightmarish outcome to the end of the war where patriotism has eroded into xenophobia and growing paranoia.
The Union Crusaders, following the inflammatory rhetoric of a nationally broadcast radio preacher, have begun to openly blame the Jews for the war and threaten all non-gentiles with bodily harm. As the meekly protestant Newman (William H. Macy)--recently demoted at work because his new glasses make him look "too Jewish"--soon becomes a target in his own home, he is forced to open his eyes to the hatred surging throughout the city and his own past silences and collaborations. While the script is relentlessly one-dimensional in its message, strong performances by Macy, Laura Dern (as Newman's leftist love interest), and Meat Loaf (as Newman's menacing neighbor) deliver anxiety and fear presciently reflective of today's climate. --Fionn Meade
|William H. Macy||Lawrence 'Larry' Newman|
|Laura Dern||Gertrude 'Gert' Hart|
|David Paymer||Mr. Finkelstein|
|Kenneth Welsh||Father Crighton|
|Joseph Ziegler||Mr. Gargan|
|Peter Oldring||Willy Doyle|