What to watch on TV in Israel: New Anne Frank, old New York

You might not think that there is a need for another movie about the teen diarist who died in the Holocaust, but the film is moving and delightful.

 CHRISTINE BARANSKI and Cynthia Nixon in ‘The Gilded Age.’ (photo credit: HBO/Yes)
CHRISTINE BARANSKI and Cynthia Nixon in ‘The Gilded Age.’
(photo credit: HBO/Yes)

Following International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 and the release of new information that may show who was responsible for turning Anne Frank and her family over to the Nazis, Netflix will present a new live-action movie, My Best Friend Anne Frank, beginning on February 1.

Not to be confused with Ari Folman’s animated movie, Where Is Anne Frank, which premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival last year, this Dutch movie is based on the memories of Hannah Goslar, one of Anne’s childhood friends.

You might not think that there is a need for another movie about the teen diarist who died in the Holocaust, but the film is moving and delightful because it captures the playful side of Anne (Aiko Beemsterboer) and Hannah (Josephine Arendsen). You can see how they were just kids who were caught up in a brutal killing machine.

The film moves back and forth between scenes of the two friends in Amsterdam during the early days of the Nazi occupation and later, at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they were able to speak to each through a fence. Hannah, whose father had acquired certain travel documents, was in a somewhat less hellish part of the camp where the inmates were held until they could be exchanged for German prisoners of war, while Anne faced starvation and disease in another part of the camp.

 ‘FAMILY IN TRANSIT’ follows real-life parents driving their adolescent children around. (credit: KAN 11) ‘FAMILY IN TRANSIT’ follows real-life parents driving their adolescent children around. (credit: KAN 11)

The actresses who play the two friends are lovely, and the movie tells Hannah’s story as much as Anne’s. Hannah had to care for her toddler sister, even though she sometimes slipped out to have as much fun as she could with Anne. Anne had a boyfriend whose father worked in a movie theater and allowed them to slip into the cinema, even though Jews were not allowed in at that point. Hannah is quieter and dreams of being a nurse, while Anne has grander ambitions and is more of a troublemaker. “God knows everything, but Anne knows more,” says Hannah’s mother at one point.

The movie is more in the style of realistic Holocaust movies, such as Son of Saul, and there are many moments that show beatings and suffering. However, for tweens and teens, it could be a good movie to see, because they will likely be able to identify with the characters, and the actresses are wonderful. The movie celebrates the intense female friendships that often develop in adolescence, and in its best moments it brings to mind the HBO version of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, if you can imagine those friends in the camps and not in Naples.

HBO’S LONG-ANTICIPATED series The Gilded Age, which is now available on Hot HBO, Hot VOD, Next TV, Cellcom TV and YesVOD and which will start running on Yes Drama on February 20, is the latest series from Julian Fellowes, the creator of the series Downton Abbey and the screenwriter of Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.

For years, he wanted to create a drama set in New York, and The Gilded Age takes place in Manhattan in the 1880s, a period of great social upheaval. The old rules of society changed during that period, as businessmen with great wealth – the so-called robber barons – tried to buy their way into New York’s elite, which was ruled by a few families, many of which were descended from the Dutch settlers.

The conflicts brought about by this transition make for great drama and will be familiar to readers of Henry James and Edith Wharton. The Gilded Age goes out of its way to explain this background, so much so that those who have read such novels as Washington Square or The House of Mirth may feel that about 40% of the dialogue is a bit obvious. Some of the characters seem as if they are there to prove points about the social situations, and feel generic at times.

All that said, The Gilded Age is still a lot of fun. At its center is a newcomer to New York, Marian (Louisa Jacobson, who happens to be Meryl Streep’s youngest daughter). She discovers that her late father has squandered his fortune and she is now penniless, so she goes to live with her aunts in New York.

Her aunt Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski, the always watchable actress from The Good Wife and The Good Fight) married a man she didn’t love for his money and social position, and now, as a widow, is a force to be reckoned with in New York. Agnes lays out the society credo that the classy old guard should never allow itself to mix or be usurped by the vulgar nouveau riche.

Agnes’s sister, Ada (Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City), who never married, lives with her and has a more open outlook on life.

Marian and her aunts live on one side of 61st Street and Fifth Avenue, but the other corner is occupied by a mansion built by upstart architect Stanford White (John Sanders), a real person who later became embroiled in the biggest scandal of the early 20th century, which formed part of the plot of E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime.

The inhabitants of the mansion are George Russell (Morgan Spector of The Plot Against America), a newly minted railroad tycoon, and his wife, Bertha (Carrie Coon, The Leftovers), who is fiercely determined to claw her way into the highest level of society.

Much of the drama in the early episodes come from watching the leading lights of New York’s elite turning up their noses at the Russells’ money and watching this couple figure out how to outwit them.

There are some story lines about the servants, but they are not given nearly as much time as those about the upstairs folks, as well as a bland subplot about Peggy (Denee Benton), a young African-American woman who befriends Marian and wants to be a writer.

The rest of the cast reads like a Who’s Who of the best of television and Broadway, with nearly a dozen Tony Award winners and nominees in the cast, including Donna Murphy, Audra McDonald, Bill Irwin and Nathan Lane among the cast.

The sets and costumes are beyond sumptuous, and they are especially enjoyable in this Omicron era, when so few of us are able to get out much or travel.

KAN 11 has a new series, Family in Transit, which runs on Monday nights at 9:50 and follows real-life parents driving their adolescent children around. The families represent a cross section of Israelis, but no matter what your background is, if you are a parent or a teen, you will be able to identify with those featured in the series, as they discuss body image, school, work, the future, clothes and hair (there’s a lot of that), friends, romance, money and much more. Some of them are remarkably candid, while others seem to be performing for the camera, but it is still entertaining.

The biggest suspense in the fourth season of Netflix’s Ozark is whether Julia Garner, who plays the local redneck roped into drug cartel money laundering, will be able to sustain the intensity of her performance – and she does.

Although much of this season is devoted to middle-class drug cartel money launderers Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) and their increasingly less believable interactions with FBI agents and drug kingpins, it’s Garner’s character, Ruth, who reminds us why we are still watching this.

This actress, whose mother is Israeli, plays a young woman the world has dismissed as trash but who takes every crumb of knowledge Marty offers her and combines it with her toughness to turn herself into a figure to be reckoned with in the Ozarks. She gave an amazing performance in the film about a Harvey Weinstein-like boss, The Assistant, and will soon be seen as a high-class con artist in the fact-based series Inventing Anna, which is coming up on Netflix in February.

While she is consistently the best thing about Ozark, and may well win a third Emmy for her performance this season, somehow the rest of the series kept me hooked. The best new plot turn is the inclusion of the scion (Katrina Lenk) of a Sackler-like family who wants to legitimize the fortune her family made from selling opioids. At one point, one of the druglords tells his new corporate partner, “I’ve never met a gringo whose family killed more people than mine.”