Film Review: “Dough” rises to the occasion

Jonathan Pryce stars as an Orthodox Jewish baker who takes a Muslim teen under his wing in this cross-cultural comedy.

These days, Jonathan Pryce is known best for playing the fanatical, puritanical, religious leader The High Sparrow on “Game of Thrones.” Back in the day, though, he was a cult-movie icon as the hapless Everyman at the center of Terry Gilliam’s dystopian 1985 comedy “Brazil.” In the new movie “Dough,” he combines a righteous glare and a disarming smile to play an Orthodox Jewish baker in London who takes a Muslim teen under his wing.

Jerome Holder and Jonathan Pryce in "Dough"

Jerome Holder and Jonathan Pryce in “Dough”

“Dough,” which screened during last year’s Portland Jewish Film Festival, is a charming culture-clash comedy that deserves its return engagement at the Living Room Theaters. Nat (Pryce) is your typical widowed stick-in-the-mud, content to run his small business in the East End while trying to fend off the advances of a supermarket chain intent on buying him out.

Seeking extra help in the shop, he reluctantly hires Ayyash (Jerome Holder), a teenaged African immigrant who’s (gasp) Muslim. Part of what makes “Dough” work is that Nat, while suspicious and curmudgeonly, is never an out-and-out bigot. He’s willing to give the kid a shot, and Ayyash, with some prodding from his mom, is a decent worker.

He’s also a small-time marijuana dealer on the side, and when he accidentally mixes some herb into the challah, Nat’s business booms. This is, obviously, the silliest part of “Dough,” but it’s forgivable enough in the context of a feel-good film like this. Comedic misunderstandings ensue.

Pryce is the whole show here, although veteran British performers like Pauline Collins (who was “Shirley Valentine” once upon a time) and Ian Hart (who was John Lennon in “Backbeat” once upon a time) contribute as, respectively, Nat’s flirtatious landlady and Ayyash’s mildly menacing drug supplier.

It may not be a challenging, or especially realistic, look at cultural or religious diversity, but if you’re looking to get pleasantly baked at the movies, “Dough” is a slice of perfectly adequate comfort food.

(94 minutes, not rated, opens Friday, May 6, at Living Room Theaters) GRADE: B



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