THE CHOSEN—-set in Brooklyn, during WW2, this 1981 drama tells of the inadvertent, illuminating friendship between two Jewish boys; one (Barry Miller) middle class, Modern Orthodox and liberal, his father a professor and Zionist (Maximilian Schell) ; the other (Robby Benson) from a strict Hasidic family, his father a leader in that segment of the community (Rod Steiger). Contrasting traditions, clashing parental beliefs and the struggle to make their own identity mark their friendship.
Directed by Jeremy Kagan, adapted from the acclaimed book by Chaim Potok, it’s well acted, with some especially good moments from Steiger. Understated scoring from Elmer Bernstein. Scripting is intelligent, though it moves rather slowly in the mid-section, and the 108 minutes could have used some tightening. With Hildy Brooks, Ron Rifkin, Kaethe Fine, Robert Burk, Val Avery.
Potok’s book, written in 1967, sold over 3.4 million copies. He was pleased with the film adaptation, and it was generally well-reviewed, but had little box-office clout, even though Robby Benson had some following going from his heart-throbby work in Ode To Billy Joe, One On One and Ice Castles.