For better or worse, we can't choose our family but in many cases, we secretly wish we could. Growing up in Brooklyn Marvin Samel (Sean Astin; The Lord of the Rings trilogy) felt as if he was constantly being criticized by his father, Mordecai (Judd Hirsch; The Fabelmans), and he grew up thinking Mordecai was a jinx. It seemed anytime Marvin had "a sure thing" going, and his father was nearby, somehow the deal would fall through and Marvin would lose money. For those reasons, despite loving his dad, the two had a somewhat strained relationship. Now a father himself, Marvin started writing down his father's stories and history which ultimately became Marvin's first film, iMordecai.
Mordecai Samel was born in 1933 in Poland. Six years later the Russians invaded and his family was taken away to the concentration camps. Fast forward seventy-five plus years and Mordecai is using a jackhammer on his bathroom floor so he can remove the tub and put in a walk-in shower for his wife, Fela (Carol Kane; The Princess Bride). When Marvin calls his parents to say he is on his way over, his father can't hear him because he uses an old flip phone that is duct-taped together.
Marvin becomes fed up and decides to buy his dad an iPhone which Mordecai refuses to use until Nina (Azia Dinea Hale; F9: The Fast Saga), one of the "Einsteins" from the tech store gives him lessons. As the two meet in private, they each learn valuable lessons from one another while Mordecai finds a new sense of freedom and adventure by using his iPhone. Meanwhile, Marvin is trying to get his cigar business off the ground with money he borrowed from his parents, who mortgaged their condo in South Florida to help Marvin.
While the script is ok with a few funny moments scattered throughout, the movie works because of the cast. Hirsch and Kane are perfectly cast, making the movie better than one would imagine. Kane may not have the biggest roles in movies but her time onscreen is always memorable and her portrayal as Marvin's mother Fela is one of the highlights of iMordecai. Hirsch is very good as well and Astin falls into the role of a Jewish son very nicely. You feel as though they truly are a family every time you see them together on-screen. Hale infuses Nina with softness and kindness giving her scenes a level of calmness that is palpable.
Shot in Miami, the film captures the palm trees, the "outdoor" mall, and those sporadic, intense, and truncated rainstorms. Having been to some of the locations shown in the film, it was fun to watch the movie and think "Hey, I know where that is!" and while iMordecai is a love letter from Marvin to his parents, especially his father, it is also a love letter to cigars, iPhones and South Florida. Samel does a fine job showcasing all four elements while teaching life lessons about compassion, passion, and pride, all under the guise of comedy.
Earning the Audience Award at the Miami Jewish Film Festival, iMordecai explores the real-life relationship between a father and a son...and their respective forms of art - Cigars and painting. It teaches the audience how to be patient and proud of one's family through the use of technology and humor.
What began as Samel's "passion project", turned into a delightful movie that takes a somewhat lighthearted approach to the complexities of a father/son dynamic, a Holocaust survivor's guilt and pain, and the youthfulness of a man who is well into his 80s. This feel-good movie is not to be missed.