If one were well versed in Passover ritual, one could ask "When Do We Eat?" director Salvador Litvak, "How is this movie different from all other movies?"
"Listen, you blow people up, you can rape them, you can destroy them, you can do anything like that in Hollywood, it's fine. You want to talk about God? That's a taboo," says Litvak.
Opening in very limited release on Friday (April 7), "Eat" is a movie about a Jewish family (cast members include Lesley Ann Warren, Jack Klugman, Michael Lerner, Shiri Appleby and Max Greenfield) celebrating the first night of Passover. Rather than dodging the religious aspects of the Seder, Litvak's film -- co-written with wife Nina Davidovich -- delves deeply into the rituals. That being said, Litvak doesn't see his film -- which he calls "a very broad comedy, but a very sophisticated comedy within its broadness" -- as being insular.
"We point to a picture like 'Monsoon Wedding,'" he suggests. "It's a great picture and it's not just any wedding. It's an Indian wedding. And so when you go, you learn about this other culture and its customs and its traditions and to us it's fascinating."
Warren -- who is, in fact, Jewish, no matter what suspicions you might otherwise have had -- agrees that "When Do We Eat?" is universal enough for people of any faith.
"It goes places that I've certainly never gone at the Seders I've been in, but nonetheless, I felt that the dynamics of the family issues -- whether it's a Jewish family or whatever religion or creed or color -- are the same," she says. "I think that these kinds of unresolved issues, resentments, hurts, little flirtations, disappoints -- all of those things exist in families."
It's no coincidence that "Eat" is opening just a few days before Passover begins on April 12, nor is it surprising that the movie is being first release in cities with heavy concentrations of Jews. However, Litvak knows that sometimes the Chosen People can be picky about the movies they choose.
"We know how the movie plays with audiences," he says. "When we show it to Jewish audiences, let's say there's 200 people in the room -- 180 of them are gonna laugh, cry and cheer ... 20 of them are going to sit there with steam coming off their heads say, 'How dare you?'"
He continues, "That's part of our culture too. We've been persecuted everywhere and what do you do? You keep your nose down and you don't air your dirty laundry and you make sure anything you do that represents, represents in the highest perfect tones. But you know what? That's dishonest. Jews are like everyone else. We're damaged. We're flawed."
And really, it's all good. "Eat" has the ultimate seal of approval.
Litvak notes, "The funny thing about this very edgy movie that features drugs and sex and people really misbehaving is that rabbis -- Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Hassidic -- support the movie. They get it."