I'm glad this popped up as an instant play title on a movie rental site I subscribe to. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with a title like "Infidel", with a man dressed in Muslim attire eating a bagel! Well I was pleasantly surprised and entertained - this is a movie that pokes fun at two different cultures but does so in an irreverent and funny manner.
Mahmud (comedian Omid Djalili) is a moderate Muslim who may not be fully observant but considers himself a true believer and takes pride in his family (wife, son, and young daughter). His mother's death brings a secret to light - Mahmud was adopted, and his birth name was Solly Shimshillewitz! This revelation predictably upsets Mahmud and causes him great confusion. What is he to do? Can he reveal his secret to his wife, children and close friends? Given the strife between the Palestinians and Israelis and the general climate of distrust between Muslims and Jews, how is Mahmud to reconcile his Jewish heritage and his Muslim identity?
Fortunately, Mahmud finds help in Lenny (Richard Schiff). Initially, both men are almost enemies, constantly bickering and fighting, but when Mahmud discovers his Jewish background, he turns to Lenny out of desperation. This results in some truly funny moments - Lenny teaching Mahmud how to shrug, how to say "oy vey", and prepares Mahmud for a 'rite of passage', accompanying Lenny to a bar mitzvah! This may all be funny, but there is also a sense of poignancy. Mahmud's efforts at getting in touch with his inner Jew has to do with his attempts to meet his dying Jewish dad who is in a nursing home.
Amidst all this, Mahmud also faces the problem of how to handle his son's impending marriage to the step-daughter of a radical Muslim cleric. The scene where the cleric comes to Mahmud's house to check his family out is one of the funniest in the film. Mahmud can't bear to think what will happen if his secret is found out...what is Mahmud/Solly to do? The acting by Omid Djalili is amazing, and he is able to credibly convey the comedic elements of his character's plight as well as the poignant moments. The portrayal of the Muslim and Jewish cultures is well done and though the movie does poke fun at both cultures, it is a balanced portrayal. The supporting cast is equally brilliant and the result is a farcical comedy that entertains.