Having played at film festivals all around the world, Salvador Litvak's comedy When Do We Eat? Is finally getting a cinema release in the US – and it couldn't have come at a better time of year. The film, arriving on screens just in time for Pesach, revolves around a Seder which goes from bad to worse, and ends up being memorable for all the wrong reasons.
At the centre of the action are the deeply dysfunctional Stuckman family; parents Ira (Michael Lerner) and Peggy (Lesley Ann Warren) are playing host to a Seder whose guests include their four children (each with their own varying problems and neuroses) and ageing grandfather Artur (former Quincy star Jack Klugman).
However, they've barely had a bite of matzo before Ira accidentally ingests a hallucinogenic drug that his son Zeke (Ben Feldman) has slipped him, and before long proceedings spiral wildly out of control. As Ira's behaviour grows increasingly erratic, so does the Seder itself, with family secrets spilling out as the evening progresses.
There's plenty to enjoy in Litvak's film, from its witty script and strong characterisation through to some spot-on performances from the largely Jewish cast. Lerner is as watchable as ever as Ira, and there's a nice turn from Max Greenfield as eldest son Ethan, whose ultra-Orthodox beliefs are tested when he gets reacquainted with his cousin Vanessa (Israeli actress Mili Avital), with whom he once had a fling.
However, although the first half of the film offers plenty of big laughs, Litvak is unable to sustain the premise throughout, and instead events take a more dramatic, poignant turn – which doesn't sit comfortably with the far-fetched premise of the story.
What might have worked brilliantly as a half-hour short is stretched to breaking point when drawn out to feature length, and you're left with the impression that everybody involved is just trying too hard to wring some more substance out of the material. It eventually finds its feet and draws to a satisfactory conclusion, but while it's an enjoyable enough way to pass 90 minutes – and everybody who's ever sat through a family Seder will doubtless find something here to identify with – you're left with the overall impression that it could have been so much better.
For more information: www.whendoweeat.com