Excited for summer blockbusters? Well, actress Jami Gertz says that "Keeping Up with the Steins," the story of the Fiedler family bonding as they attempt to put on an impressive bar mitzvah, offers more than the same-old popcorn flick. More specifically, it offers a scene of 71-year-old Garry Marshall (as grandpa Fiedler) skinny-dipping.
"Garry, full-on naked, is a sight to behold, and something that should be seen," says Glenview native Gertz, who plays momma Fiedler.
The movie centers on 13-year-old Benjamin (Daryl Sabara), who is reluctant to have the blowout bar mitzvah party that his dad (Jeremy Piven)--while warring with his estranged father (Marshall)--insists on throwing. Why? Poppa Piven wants his son to have a bigger, better bash than the Steins (Larry Miller, Sandra Taylor). At a time when "My Super Sweet 16" shows how far families will go to spoil their children, Gertz says competition is everywhere, including a bar mitzvah her son attended that offered white tigers for partygoers to pet.
"In some parts of the country, [there's a feeling] that we have to try to give our children everything.... And we're probably screwing them up," she says. "It's just this culture of trying to keep up with the Joneses."
Benjamin also has trouble keeping up, as he struggles to understand the notion that having a bar mitzvah means that you become a man in Judaism. It's an idea Gertz says her nephew also took too literally.
"My son was bar mitzvah'd last year, and my nephew was sitting at the synagogue and just kind of sitting there quietly, staring at my son," she says. "After it was over, he looked at my brother and said, 'I thought he was going to become a man!' He literally thought that right then and there he would morph into a man.
"It's such a joke because it's you at your most awkward, and you're clearly not a man."
What the ceremony does mean, Gertz adds, is that it's the time for kids to take responsibility for themselves and the world around them, and she has imparted this on her oldest son, Oliver.
"We as parents are keeping him abreast of situations. Where you used to turn off the nightly news, I now let him watch and let him know what's going on in the world," she says. "He always read the sports section; that's how he learned how to read. Now, he'll read the front page and he'll know about current events, and he's gotta be aware of it. We have to bring him to that table and to those discussions."
This coming of age is something that people of all religions can relate to, and Gertz says that "Keeping Up with the Steins" should be seen as a secular film.
"It's really the story of a grandfather coming back and trying to repair a relationship with his son. It happens to be a Jewish family, but it could be any family having those problems," she says. "Growing of age, fighting with your father, and competing with the Joneses. Competing with the Steins. That's universal."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun