Esther Kahn
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The English-language debut of French director Arnaud Desplechin, Esther Kahn charts the ascension of a lower-class Jewish girl from a turn-of-the-century London ghetto to one of the stage's leading actresses. Esther (Summer Phoenix) feels set apart from her large, raucous family, who are all employed in the garment business. Her life is changed when she attends a Yiddish theatre performance, and she is suddenly determined to become an actress. After joining a small theatre company, she becomes the protégé of Nathan (Ian Holm), a stage veteran who instructs her in her chosen craft. Esther… More
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Beautiful and baffling."
‑ Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly
"Ms. Phoenix is completely lacking in charm and charisma, and is unable to project either Esther's initial anomie or her eventual awakening."
‑ Andrew Sarris, New York Observer
"I found it endlessly fascinating."
‑ Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
"The biggest problem I have (other than the very sluggish pace) is we never really see her Esther blossom as an actress, even though her talent is supposed to be growing."
‑ Jon Popick, Planet Sick-Boy
"Beautifully produced."
‑ David Ehrenstein, New Times
"The narrator and the other characters try to convince us that acting transfigures Esther, but she's never seen speaking on stage; one feels cheated, and Esther seems to remain an unchanged dullard."
‑ Rasmi Simhan, Dallas Morning News
"It's a lot to ask people to sit still for two hours and change watching such a character, especially when rendered in as flat and impassive a manner as Phoenix's."
‑ Gene Seymour, Newsday
"It's a strange film, one that was hard for me to warm up to."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
"An ambitious, serious film that manages to do virtually everything wrong; sitting through it is something akin to an act of cinematic penance."
‑ Frank Swietek, One Guy's Opinion
"if you are an actor who can relate to the search for inner peace by dramatically depicting the lives of others onstage, then Esther's story is a compelling quest for truth."
‑ Athan Bezaitis,
"What makes Esther Kahn so demanding is that it progresses in such a low-key manner that it risks monotony. But it's worth the concentration."
‑ Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
"The French director has turned out nearly 21/2 hours of unfocused, excruciatingly tedious cinema that, half an hour in, starts making water torture seem appealing."
‑ Megan Turner, New York Post
"Attempting to determine whether the offstage trauma that she's undergoing is genuine or an extreme form of method acting becomes the film's dramatic crux, and it's more than enough to hold the viewer's attention"
‑ Jeremy Heilman,
"Like its title character, Esther Kahn is unusual but unfortunately also irritating."
‑ Ed Scheid, Boxoffice Magazine
"Ranks among the best films ever made about the acting profession."
‑ Ken Fox, TV Guide's Movie Guide
More reviews for Esther Kahn on Rotten Tomatoes