Esther Kahn (2001)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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The English-language debut of French director Arnaud Desplechin, Esther Kahn charts the ascension of a lower-class Jewish girl from a turn-of-the-century London ghetto to one of the stage's leading actresses. Esther (Summer Phoenix) feels set apart from her large, raucous family, who are all employed in the garment business. Her life is changed when she attends a Yiddish theatre performance, and she is suddenly determined to become an actress. After joining a small theatre company, she becomes the protégé of Nathan (Ian Holm), a stage veteran who instructs her in her chosen craft. Esther gradually works her way up in the ranks -- taking a lover, brainy French theatre critic Philippe (Fabrice Desplechin), along the way -- until she is cast in the title role of Hedda Gabler, which she performs to great acclaim. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi
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Le Studio Canal Plus


Summer Phoenix
as Esther Kahn
Ian Holm
as Nathan Quellen
Fabrice Desplechin
as Philippe Haygard
Frances Barber
as Rivka Kahn
Laszlo Szabo
as Ytzhok Kahn
Emmanuelle Devos
as Sylvia L'Italienne
Akbar Kurtha
as Samuel Kahn
Paul Regan
as Joel
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Critic Reviews for Esther Kahn

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (9)

Beautiful and baffling.

January 16, 2003
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

The narrator and the other characters try to convince us that acting transfigures Esther, but she's never seen speaking on stage; one feels cheated, and Esther seems to remain an unchanged dullard.

Full Review… | May 30, 2002
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

What makes Esther Kahn so demanding is that it progresses in such a low-key manner that it risks monotony. But it's worth the concentration.

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Ms. Phoenix is completely lacking in charm and charisma, and is unable to project either Esther's initial anomie or her eventual awakening.

March 13, 2002
New York Observer
Top Critic

It's a lot to ask people to sit still for two hours and change watching such a character, especially when rendered in as flat and impassive a manner as Phoenix's.

March 1, 2002
Top Critic

The French director has turned out nearly 21/2 hours of unfocused, excruciatingly tedious cinema that, half an hour in, starts making water torture seem appealing.

March 1, 2002
New York Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Esther Kahn

This film was way too tedious and long for a extremely simple concept: the rise and fall of a theater actress.

Matt Solis
Matt Solis

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