Thursday, February 21, 2019

Movie Review: "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971)

Director: Norman Jewison
Year: 1971
Rating: G
Running Time: 3 hours, 1 minute

A Jewish dairy farmer is faced with changing times when his three eldest daughters want marriages that go against the traditions of the past.

Fiddler on the Roof 1971 movie Topol
"A poor girl without a dowry can't be particular." (Image Source)
Tradition and culture are things that help shape who we are. They can also define our ethnicity. Like all things, traditions and culture are not immune to the effects of time and the progress of sharing and changing ideas and mindsets. "Fiddler on the Roof" is a film that looks at one such time in the life of a Jewish dairy farmer named Tevye (Topol), who lives in a small village under Imperial Russian rule just prior to the Russian Revolution. His three eldest daughters Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small) are reaching an age where they are expected to get married, but these three women don't want the traditional arranged marriage that they are destined for. Instead, they want to break with the customs of the past and choose their own husbands whom they love rather than having their father choose for them based on financial security. The film is directed by Norman Jewison, who is known for directing films like "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Moonstruck," and "In the Heat of the Night." The screenplay is written by Joseph Stein and is based on the stage play he wrote along with Arnold Perl, which was adapted from stories by Sholom Aleichem.
Fiddler on the Roof 1971 movie Topol
"Some people are driven away by edicts, others by silence." (Image Source)
We were hesitant to watch "Fiddler on the Roof" mainly because it's a period piece musical that clocks in at just over three hours in length. Needless to say, it felt like a daunting task to watch something we feared would be dated and tiresome. Though this is the first time either of us remembers sitting down to watch this film from start to finish, we were surprisingly familiar with many of its songs and its most famous moments. BigJ's father loved this movie and would often sing its most popular tunes around the house in his youth. In that aspect, watching this movie and hearing those ditties brought back fond memories for him. I remember singing several of this play's songs in choir class in high school. That's the best part of this movie: the music. It is excellent, and though it has a stage play feel with a very traditional sound, it still manages to be catchy and will stick in your head long after the film is over. The tunes are all sung extremely well and are often accompanied by some high-energy dance numbers that are a lot of fun to watch. The story is compelling and deals with themes of how customs and mores evolve over time. It shows how people are resistant to change, a clash between the young and the old as Tevye's daughters have new ideas about how the world should work, while he's comfortable and set in his old ways. Tevye and the elders of his village fear what change could mean for their way of life as a whole. Real-life progress and advancement tend to prevail, as it does in this film. "Fiddler on the Roof" also has a good mix of humor and drama that deals with both personal and political transformations for better and worse. The reason this film succeeds as much as it does is thanks in large part to Topal, who is absolutely fantastic as Tevye. He gives a boisterous, funny, sometimes aggressive, sometimes tender performance. His efforts earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. In fact, the film as a whole was nominated for eight Oscars and took home three for sound, music, and cinematography. Taking all its accolades into account, the coolest thing about "Fiddler on the Roof" is that it features a character named Lazar Wolf (pronounced Laser Wolf), and to us, that fact is worth a few stars all on its own.
Fiddler on the Roof 1971 movie Leonard Frey Rosalind Harris
"I never thought you'd amount to anything, but look at you. A baby and a sewing machine, you're a person! (Image Source)
Everyone should watch "Fiddler on the Roof" at least once because it's a great musical. We were surprised by how progressive its story is considering the era in which it takes place.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.0/10
RT Rating: 83%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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  1. My 6th grade music teacher had us watch this and I have loved it ever since. I recently took my daughters to see it at the local performing arts center and they loved it as well.

    1. Hi there! That is such a cool thing to share with your kids, we are so glad they enjoyed the live performance of it, too! :)

      ~Lolo and BigJ