Joshua Then and Now
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 118 min
Joshua Shapiro (James Woods) is a working-class kid from Montreal who forges a successful career for himself in London, England as a journalist, author and television pundit. He even lures the regal Pauline (Gabrielle Lazure) away from her husband and then marries her. But no one thinks this marriage of opposites will last. Joshua is a pushy, street smart Jew, while Pauline is a polished Protestant girl, the daughter of a wealthy senator and accustomed to the comforts of Westmount. Their upbringings were worlds apart: when he was in a detention centre, she was attending an exclusive girls’ school; while he was learning how to hot-wire cars, she was being taught how to curtsy for the Governor General.
When an opportunity arises to return to Canada and write a book, Joshua packs up his family and moves back to Montreal. But his past catches up to him and soon Joshua’s life is in shambles. After his best friend suddenly dies, Joshua is publicly, though mistakenly, suspected of being homosexual. He then gets in trouble with the police. Adding to his woes, Pauline leaves him after blaming him for her brother’s death. But through it all, the film is punctuated by Joshua’s humourous attempts to get himself out of the many jams that complicate his life.
Based on Mordecai Richler’s novel about Jewish resentment, Joshua Then and Now was the much anticipated collaboration between director Ted Kotcheff and Richler (who also wrote the screenplay), following their highly successful The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravtiz. The film evokes many elements of Duddy and owes much to Richler’s freestyle, semi-autobiographical tone, but it died at the box office. One of those artificially constructed eighties miniseries/feature hybrids, the film is hampered by choppy editing and a disjointed narrative. Woods leads a generally fine ensemble cast that features a standout performance from Alan Arkin, although Kotcheff and the producers chose to dub Gabrielle Lazure with the voice of another actress.
Selected as the opening night gala of the Toronto Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival®), the film was nominated for thirteen Genie Awards and won five, including those for Supporting Actor (Arkin), Supporting Actress (Linda Sorensen) and Cinematography (François Protat).