Movie review: ‘Dough’ proves to have a tasty recipe for drama and humor
Nitpickers could have a field day with this down-home little British import. Along with the main storyline, there are side-plots galore. Some of them aren’t developed or thought through enough, others involve illogical decisions, others would have been better off on the cutting room floor. But the movie is just so darn likeable, its piffling problems shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying it.
The message at the center of “Dough,” from which everything evolves, is one of celebration, of the idea that we all share differences and similarities, and that oftentimes people need each other but don’t realize it. Take the film’s two London-based protagonists. There’s the elderly, workaholic baker Nat (Jonathan Pryce) who stays so busy just eeking by in his even older Kosher bakery, he hasn’t yet realized how lonely he’s been in the two years since his wife died.
And there’s the young, energetic Ayyash (Jerome Holder), a local kid who parties with his pals at night, washes car windows for tips by day, and loafs around while his mom works two jobs and continues to hope that her husband will someday make it out of Darfur to join them.
Nat needs a new apprentice at the shop, and Ayyash needs a job. Both are good people, both are religious. But aside from that, each has nothing in common with the other. Any guesses as to who’s going to start working at which Kosher bakery? Any idea of when these two men — who quite consciously have negative thoughts toward each other (hmmm, a young Muslim and an old Jew ... what could go wrong?) — will start seeing each other for who they really are?
Culture clash, racism, ageism — plenty of fodder for an interesting drama that could, should, must turn out to be a poignant story. But “Dough” is more of a comedy than a drama, and most of its light touches work very well.
For instance, all Ayyash knows about baking is how to make toast for breakfast, but he’s a fast learner, and he knows how to adapt. One example is that he thinks of the bakery as his “second” job, and it’s a good place, when the boss isn’t looking, for him to carry on with his “real” job: Selling marijuana, under the counter. Of course his customers easily fall prey to the munchies, so sales of baked goods get a boost. One day there’s an accident, and some of Ayyash’s stash gets mixed into a batch of dough that eventually becomes bread, a loaf of which finds its way to oblivious Nat’s family dinner, where everyone who eats a piece finds that they’re happier than usual.
So much of the film is both thought-provoking as well as fun. But then it gets too crowded. Nat has been a widower for two years. One plot involves Joanna (Pauline Collins), who has just become a widow, and has inherited the block of buildings of which the bakery is a part. She’s lonely, and has eyes for Nat, but might sell off the buildings to a greedy, land-grabbing competitor of his (Philip Davis).
More side stories: Ayyash and his mom are kicked out of their slummy apartment building; Ayyash’s Fagin-like drug connection wants to know where his money is (well, the “dough” is in the dough); there’s a comic caper section about breaking into the greedy guy’s office.
The comedy gets dramatic, the drama becomes funny, Ayyash cooks up a new recipe for brownies that results in lines around the block. Of course, everything turns out well for everyone that deserves it, and goes badly for those who don’t. Yes, the film feels too cluttered with people and plots, but in the end, it’ll give you a pleasant buzz.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Yehudah Jez Freedman and Jonathan Benson; directed by John Goldschmidt
With Jonathan Pryce, Jerome Holder, Pauline Collins, Philip Davis