By: Jolie Featherstone
A sweet-natured family film, Judd Hirsch’s charming performance carries the emotional and comedic weight of iMordecai.
Mordecai Samel (Judd Hirsch, recently nominated for an Oscar for his incendiary performance in The Fabelmans) is a plumber, painter, and an all-around do-it-yourself’er. Mordecai and his wife, Fela, (Carol Kane, reuniting with Hirsch after their time together on TV’s Taxi) are Holocaust survivors who have been married for around 60 years and have never spent a night apart. When their son (Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings and Goonies fame) sees how his Dad has torn up their condo for another one of his DIY plans, he puts his foot down and takes his Dad to get a smartphone and acquaint him with the modern world. Resistant at first, when Mordecai sees the beautiful digital art that can be created on an electronic device, he tentatively dips his feet into the technological waters with encouragement from a kind, young sales associate, Nina (Azia Dinea Hale). As Mordecai begins “iPhone lessons” with Nina, a series of hijinks begins that will push and pull Mordecai, his family, and his friends into growing and accepting each other.
The main story – and the emotional core of the film – is Mordecai’s emotional journey through his history and expressing important memories from his past in the present. In addition to this journey, much change is befalling Mordecai: Fela is diagnosed with a form of Dementia, Marvin’s livelihood is increasingly uncertain, and his new friend Nina has some family conflicts and pain that are coming to the fore. As Mordecai shows us, change and evolution happen at every stage of life.
Hirsch is loveable as stubborn and honest Mordecai. I would have loved to have seen Kane being given more to do in the film. That said, there is a scene between Fela and Nina that is so lovely where Kane truly gets to shine. Newcomer Azia Dinea Hale is also memorable in her turn as Nina, a kind and thoughtful young woman with a history of her own that she is struggling to reckon with.
Historical scenes are often told through narrated animated sequences that beautifully convey family, love, trauma, war, and grief. These animated scenes speak to Mordecai’s inner passion for painting and art, which plays a big part in the film’s heartwarming ending.
The film included tributaries of multiple stories that could have been more fleshed-out. I hate to say this, but I think this film would have rendered well as a limited series. As a limited series, each storyline could have been more fully developed and explored.
iMordecai is a warm and sunny film that, while touching upon many directions, brightens the hearts of those who watch it; thanks in large part to Judd Hirsch’s endearing and eccentric protagonist.
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Jolie Featherstone: @TOFilmFiles