Hester Street - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Hester Street Reviews

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February 28, 2017
Beautiful, seamless, emotionally authentic performances with such subtlety and honesty. Small, personal story with HUGE feminist-political agenda. Wonderfully directed. Such skill at recreating this period both visually and in performance.
½ December 8, 2016
Yankel, a Jewish immigrant from Russia living in late 19th century New York, brings his wife (Carol Kane) and child over from Russia. Yankel has assimilated (he calls himself "Jake") and his family's old world appearance and demeanor embarrass him. He's much more interested in the owner of a dance studio who's much more American than his wife. Joan Micklin Silver's feature film debut is a nice little film. Shot in black and white and on an obviously low budget, it may not completely convincingly capture it's period setting, but it does an admirable job, and the human drama is mildly compelling.
May 10, 2015
An odd movie with a nice performance from Carol Kane that earned her an Oscar nomination.
February 4, 2015
Drags on despite its deceptively brief running time, as this depiction of lost passion and cultural warfare is unforgivably quaint and shallow.
Super Reviewer
½ October 15, 2013
A look at early "feminism" as we have the story of a woman trying to exceed traditional roles to embrace the lifestyle of a new country. This however is a dull rendition.
March 14, 2013
This portrait of Eastern European Jews coming to America at the turn of Century is decent. A man comes to America and quickly adapts to the culture, and even begins to have an affair...so his life becomes decidedly complicated when his wife and child finally arrive. He neglects her for her old country ways, and changes their son's name to the more American Joey, and he continues with his affair. For it's small budget, it is a decent period piece with a fairly accurate portrayal of the plight of the immigrants that came to America at this time. It is almost strange to see Carol Kane in such a dramatic role, as I am so used to seeing her in zany comedy characters.
½ November 24, 2012
The United States of America. The land of opportunities. A country which has always had a horde of immigrants from all over the world. Where everyone tend to seek the american dream and finally live in peace and freedom to finally be who they are without prosecution. This was the case with the Jews living in Russia. Although they where not psychically abused in the US, they were still looked down upon, and was denied high profile jobs, and had to live in ghettos. The only way that any Jew could succeed was to throw away their Jewishness, their traditions, their language, their clothes, their beards and their names.

One particularly street named Hester Street in Manhattan, New York, where there was a significant large Yiddish speaking population of Jewish immigrants. The year is 1896, and we follow the Russian immigrant named Jake (originally Yankl) who's lived in America for three years. A typical Americanized Jew. But one day he receives a letter that his father back in Russia is dead, and that his wife, Gitl (Carol Kane) and their son, Yossele is gonna leave Russia and join her husband in the US. But throwing away her Jewishness isn't as easy for her as it was for Jake. And all her traditional rituals makes Jake angry and he often result to violence, which after a long time ends up with a divorce.

Hester Street is an atmospheric period drama, which sometimes feels like a silent film or a documentary with it's black and white photography. It's like diving into a historical photo album which takes us back in time to show us an old New York and it's ethnic quarters. And I also love when the actors actually spoke Yiddish, the language which they used to speak back in the old country. But what I didn't like about this film was that the ending wasn't very satisfying. There's no reconciliation, and the main character Jake is so two dimensional and so simple. But on the other side it's kind of a ironic ending for Gitl's sake. Overall it's a good period piece, and a great Oscar nominated performance by Carol Kane. Thumbs up.
April 20, 2012
Awkward in some places but still a fine film, perhaps the best I've seen to feature immigration in the Gilded Age.
February 14, 2012
I just saw this last weekend on TCM during their Oscar month (2012). What a gem! As a second-generation Ellis Islander (Italian/Irish), so a film buff not that far from the immigrant experience, I was captivated. The scenes where the Jewish divorce is being granted far exceed anything put on film by Martin Scorcese or Francis Ford Coppola. This is one of those films that you either "get" or it may be totally lost on you. Forget the production values, lack of sepia tone; the story is what matters here.
February 11, 2011
Ostensibly a Jewish film its really the story of the changes that can happen in the process of migration to a new culture. New York city, speciifically the lower east side of Manhattan is the crucible where old meets new, European culture meets American populism. I also liked it because it shows that an older, cultured and educated person can still be very attractive!
March 9, 2010
Hester Street is about a woman that comes to America in the late 1800's to find out that her husband has completely changed and is now a womanizer. For a period piece the locales look a little fake, the look at the relations of Russian Jews at the turn of the century is interesting, but the main focus of the film is Carol Kane's portrayal of a woman lost in a new world.
½ August 6, 2009
really lovely, small film. the black and white of it, the yiddish occasionally without subtitles, the huge, sad eyes of carol kane all conspire to make a really great little film. very worth watching. the America these characters work so hard to belong to seems harsher and crueler in each scene.
October 26, 2008
I loved this movie, and I was just thinking about how to summarize how awesome it was when Nicole brought to my attention the existence of croc-uggs and now I cannot ever enjoy anything ever again.
August 23, 2008
Worthwhile as a document of life in New York's Jewish tenements, but its miniscule budget pinches its period detail into stagey and static sets that fetter it's dynamic cast.
May 28, 2008
I saw it when it first came out and then again 33 years later. It holds up well, especially Carol Kane's magnificent performance as Gitl. It's a movie about the assimilation of Jewish immigrants into the United States.
August 22, 2007
Carol Kane's magnificent performance alone makes this otherwise unimpressive film worth watching. The story and acting are amazing... but the quality of the production suffers from the low budget.
½ April 12, 2007
Watch the scene where Jake tries to yank the sheitel (wig) off his wife's (Gitl's) head - and finds out, to his shock, that the frizzy hair is actually her own!
February 27, 2005
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