While many contemporary films fail to comment on social issues without making a mockery of those it features, “Dough” rises to the occasion.
A man of the past, in terms of age and how he approaches life, Jewish baker Nat (Jonathan Pryce, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”) finds himself near bankruptcy — nearly all of his customers are leaving or dying, and his only employee has decided to abandon him. Even worse, the owner of the chain grocery store and bakery next door, Sam Cotton (Philip Davis, “Alien3“ ), is determined to run Nat out of business. With the situation growing worse each day, Nat takes a chance on Shaun (Malachi Kirby, “Gone Too Far”), the typical disillusioned teenager desperately trying to escape the confines of his town. Unbeknownst to Nat, Shaun is the town’s newest weed dealer. Suddenly, business is thriving like never before, and it appears the dynamic duo is unstoppable. Of course, it wouldn’t be the typical rise-to-the-top story without everything going up in flames, only to increase the mushiness of the happy ending.
Jez Freedman (“The Storyteller”) and Jonathan Benson’s (“Dough”) script is a recipe for comedic success; it mixes gags that are meant to induce laughter with witty banter that serves to provoke deeper thoughts about the stereotyping that Jews and Muslims exhibit toward each other. A fair amount of the jokes, though, tend to go over the heads of viewers who are less familiar with Jewish and Muslim culture.
Most of the humor in “Dough” stems from the fact that the film itself effectively functions as an inside joke between the audience and Shaun. The oblivious Nat is completely baffled by the presence of the long haired, Rasta-hat wearing teenagers anxiously standing outside his bakery after Shaun adds his secret ingredient to the Challah dough. Nat is further confused when the teens stride up to the counter, asking for the bagels with extra “poppy seeds,” then proceeding to give him a hinting wink. But it’s not just the youth who’ve become addicted to the marijuana-infused baked goods — some of Nat’s elderly clients also find themselves having more fun playing cards and partaking in other older-people festivities while under the influence.
Mimicking their mentor-mentee relationship, Pryce has years of experience on Kirby. Nearly an hour passes before Kirby finally begins delivering his lines with emotion and enthusiasm, indicating that he’s got potential as an actor, but needs more time to develop it. Pryce, on the other hand, portrays genuine emotion from start to finish. He balances his perfectly-timed witty remarks with much needed moments of seriousness when he must teach Shaun the life lessons his father didn’t. The natural chemistry Pryce and Kirby exhibit on screen nicely accentuates the bond that forms between their characters.
The sleek, professional feel of the film is further enhanced by the cinematography. Overall, the camera movement is incredibly smooth; not only leading us through the town’s streets and buildings, but also lending a nice flow to the story itself. On a symbolic level, the shifting camera angles work very nicely. Figures of power, especially the town’s infamous drug lord, Victor, (Ian Hart, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”) are frequently shot at low angles, increasing their already fearful characteristics.
Just like eating a warm, flaky dinner roll, consuming “Dough” is an extremely enjoyable experience. Each bite is better than the last, and we’re crushed to realize that the last bite is inevitable.