‘The Tollbooth’


How is czarist Russia like modern-day Brooklyn? Touché, but let’s say this time the answer’s not Brighton Beach. It’s not The Tollbooth either, but what with the movie’s dramatization of the opposition between tradition and individualism for a Jewish family’s three “marrying age” daughters, Fiddler on the Roof parallels will inevitably be drawn. The spunky secretary from The Practice (Marla Sokoloff) plays Sarabeth, a spunky art school grad, wearing colorful bandannas and paint stains as proudly as she does a sourly contrarian disposition. More spoiled brat than strident feminist, her propensity for rote dissonance blinds her to certain important issues—her older sister’s lesbianism, for instance. Seen through Sarabeth’s eyes, her parents are intractable old-worlders standing in the way of her liberation. Alas, the question of whether Sarabeth will make it as a big-city artist is less fascinating than wondering when she’ll discover that her art is terrible. All hardly memorable, but for this watershed moment: Jayce Bartok’s hard-luck brother-in-law proves “Owen Wilson” is no longer merely a beatific blond actor but a branded style of hazy ditz unto itself—a standard before which, in retrospect, Owen Wilson sometimes falls short.