A washed up, alcoholic, disgraced major league baseball player has to perform 192 hours of mandatory community service to comply with his parole terms. No one wants him to coach for them, long past his glory, he’s now become infamous and an embarrassment to all.
When all hope seems lost, a Yeshiva wants him to coach their unlikely team. At the end, the team members and their new coach, all learn valuable lessons about life, about hope, about giving it your best.
The plot may not always seem plausible, the movie has some flaws, but the total effect – between the laughter and the profound humanity of the characters – made for a perfect hour and fifty-five minutes of entertainment. Some of The Yankles‘ scenes may lack authenticity, but through it all it is obvious that for the Brooks brothers this was a true labor of love.
Over ten years in the planning, it was finished in 2009 with a very small budget of a mere $2,000,000.00, it was shot in 29 days in Utah. Yes, folks, the chassidic characters were portrayed by… Mormons! No big name actors here, yet everyone played their parts with zest and true understanding of each character. As a result, you see not the actors acting but the characters portrayed are all too human. Frankly, I could not see anyone else in any of the main roles
Kenneth F. Brown, in particular, was extremely convincing and delightfully funny in his portrayal of assistant coach Rabbi Meyer. Coaching, while reading the rule book… The whole cast did an outstanding job!
The movie won a slew of awards, it tells its story well, doing one’s absolute best is far more important than winning at all costs. The non-Jewish, ex-convict, ex-alcoholic, coach – who never thought his ball players would ever amount to much – not only turns these guys into a winning team that catches the imagination of the networks, but also straightens himself out in the process and finds everything that seemed so elusive before.
SYR and I got to watch The Yankles this past Tuesday evening at the Manhattan JCC. We loved its sympathetic portrayal of the charedi world. It showed that in spite of what many might think, ultra-orthodox chassidic Jews are human like everyone else; though they may not mix easily with others outside their fold, their zest for life, their emotions are practically in-distinguished from the rest of society. I found it remarkably gratifying that the Brooks brothers, sons of a Conservative rabbi, would be so positive in their outlook of charedim. The movie combined some superb humorous moments, some touching scenes, some slices of human struggle and eventual triumph, with an uplifting message. The evening was fun and it proved that quite often the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.