Unlike the offerings at Dayan & Son’s kosher bakery in London’s East End, Jonathan Goldschmidt’s erratic comedy “Dough” includes no secret ingredient. It does, however, mix the makings of many other movie recipes, in the unfounded hope of coming up with something fresh.
Gray-bearded, rabbinical looking Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce), now in his second year of mourning his late wife, gets up at 4 a.m. six days a week to start the ovens and knead the dough, as his family has been doing for the past 100 years.
But that tradition is in trouble, His own son, a successful lawyer, has no interest in the business. His customers are leaving town or dying and no new ones are taking their place. A ruthless developer (Philip Davis) — who also owns the grocery chain encroaching on his business — is pressuring his landlady (Pauline Collins) to sell the building, which means he’ll be evicted. And his apprentice has taken a job with the competition.
But help comes from an unlikely source: the immigrant population. Dayan’s cleaning lady, a refugee from Darfur, needs a job for her teenage son, Ayyash (Jerome Holder). Ayyash, desperate to provide a decent home for his mother (his father is missing, a likely victim of the murderous Janjaweed), takes the job as a cover for his real job dealing marijuana.
So we have tradition versus gentrification, old curmudgeon versus young whippersnapper, xenophobic locals versus desperate newcomers, Jew versus Muslim, et cetera, all played occasionally with an inappropriate slapstick reminiscent of the Three Stooges.
Still, it needs a little something else.
Luckily, one morning Ayyash accidentally spills some of his stash into a vat of dough. The challah loaves are sold, and voila! Will the world ever tire of scenes in which unwittingly stoned oldsters cackle like debauchees at their bridge club?
Overnight, business is booming, much to the consternation of the real estate developer, the real son, and, eventually, the drug kingpin.
Unfortunately, the addition is just one more thing for the overstuffed, half-baked script to deal with. The few winning, not-so-secret ingredients in “Dough” are the performances of Pryce and newcomer Holder, who brings zest and freshness to a stale role.
Actor Jerome Holder will be on hand to discuss “Dough” at selected screenings on April 29 and 30 at West Newton Cinema, and on May 1 at Cape Cinema in Dennis. For information go to www.westnewtoncinema.com and www.capecinema.com.
★ ½ DOUGH
Directed by John Goldschmidt. Written by Yehudah Jez Freedman and Jonathan Benson. Starring Jonathan Pryce, Pauline Collins, Jerome Holder. At West Newton, Dennis. 94 minutes. Unrated (drug use, tone deafness, utopianism).