(director/writer: Jesse Eisenberg; cinematographer: Michal Dymek; editor: Robert Nassau; cast: Jesse Eisenberg (David Kaplan), Kieran Culkin (Benji Kaplan), Banner Eisenberg (Abe), Will Sharpe (James), Jennifer Grey (Marcia), Kurt Egyiawan (Eloge), Liza Sadovy (Diane), Daniel Oreskes (Mark); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jesse Eisenberg, Dave McCary, Ali Herting, Emma Stone, Jennifer Semler, Ewa Puszczyn; A Fox Searchlight Release; 2024)

“Too strained to make more than a modest impact on Holocaust films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Actor-turned-director Jesse Eisenberg (“When You Finish Saving The World”) stars, directs and writes this dramedy. It’s about cousins on a guilt trip, who go to Poland for their grandmother’s funeral and take a Holocaust tour.

David Kaplan is a chatty New Yorker who makes a decent living selling digital ads. His impish idler cousin Benji Kaplan (Kieran Culkin) travels to Poland with David to visit Granny Dory’s homeland as she requested before her death. Granny was one of the fortunate Polish Jews who escaped the Holocaust.

During one of the uncouth Benji’s many outbursts, he says “money is like fucking heroin for boring people.”

In Poland, the cousins go on a Holocaust tour given by their gentile tour guide James (Will Sharpe), an Oxford grad, working in what he considers to be a strange job. The others on the tour include the LA Jewish divorcee Marcia (Jennifer Grey); an older Jewish couple (Daniel Oreskes and Liza Sadovy); and, Eloge (Kurt Egyiawan), who escaped the Rwandan genocide and converted to Judaism in Canada.

It’s filmed in Polish locales that are not always glamorous and are littered with graffiti, such as in Warsaw, Lublin and the Polish countryside. But the bleakest place is the dreary Majdanek concentration camp.

It’s well-acted and good on covering the suffering of the Jewish people, but is too strained to make more than a modest impact on Holocaust films. The comedy lightens all the pain revealed, as Eisenberg shows the ability of being a solid director.
It played at the Sundance Film Festival.