by Tori Hanes
Ah, the great dismay of reviewers everywhere: putting to word the film that is, in all respects, just fine.
Good intention, beating heart, a splattering of fine performances… a contrived story, weird relationships, and dramatically confusing decisions. Comme ci, comme ça.
Holocaust survivor turned Miami Beach grandfather Mordecai Samel is played by Judd Hirsch – and let’s be honest here. The man’s 88 years old. This in and of itself is worthy of praise.
Mordecai is forever changed by the purchase of an iPhone. This singular point sprouts approximately 12 plots that messily attempt a parallel run, including:
- A flailing cigar business run by Mordecai’s perpetually disgruntled son, Marvin (Sean Astin)
- A wholeheartedly strange relationship with a member of a Nazi bloodline
- A bizarrely convenient dementia diagnosis
- A budding, introduced-and-forgotten art career
Any of these could’ve, and probably should’ve, been the primary plot. Instead, they bob and weave to and fro, knocking each other off course for the chance at a fleeting moment in the sun.
The contexts surrounding this film are, unfortunately, more interesting than the movie itself. Filmmaker Marvin Samel created iMordecai as a joyous tribute to his father, and that palpable love is present throughout the 102 minute run time. Mordecai Samel did survive the Holocaust in a Siberian orphanage, and he did create a happy life in sunny Miami. His son claims to have learned the craft of filmmaking through online classes, accumulating his knowledge to create the cinematic experience of his father’s golden years.
Hilariously, iMordecai is touted as a “true story – the bold, true story of an older man learning how to use an iPhone.” Of course this is a hyperbolic simplification, but the nature of the claim feels about as asinine as that. It’s a glaring example of the lack of perception toward what makes this movie interesting. Mordecai Samel, the man at the center, is the heart, pumping blood to every far reaching vein. When the film turns a tourniquet on itself, it loses.
Overall, the plot’s messy but comprehensible. The direction is jarring but understandable. The cast is stacked, the performances are solid, but the characters are left-footed. iMordecai is digestible in every way but forgettable just the same.