Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Nitzan Gilady's quiet Israeli heartbreaker, WEDDING DOLL, updates "Light in the Piazza"

The plight of -- let's toss political correctness to the wind here -- retarded, handicapped, or OK, "special" people, especially when these involve what in other films might be considered normal interactions with the rest of the world (love, sex, employment), is a subject we don't see tackled all that often in movies. When this is, we're more likely to get sentimentality than reality. If a film comes around that manages the latter, doing it righteously and well, attention will be paid.

This is exactly what Israeli writer/director Nitzan Gilady , shown at left, brings to the table with his new film WEDDING DOLL. In my headline I call the film heartbreaking, but this is not because it gives in to the sentimental. Instead, it breaks your heart via its clear-eyed view of the handicapped and what the people who care for them must do in order to help them achieve something approaching normality. I have no idea if the film at hand is based on real-life characters (nor does it matter much to me), but Mr. Gilady has chosen his people and situation so specifically and so well that it is difficult not to find them credible.

This film will take some of us older folk back to the time of The Light in the Piazza -- both the novel and the film. (TrustMovies never saw the Broadway musical but does not think much of its ditch-the-melody score.) Wedding Doll again finds a beautiful heroine with a limited mental capacity, seemingly due, as in the earlier work, to an accident rather than to anything genetic.

Our main character, Hagit, is played with enormous energy & believability regarding the kind of behavior that would accompany this state by the lovely young actress, Moran Rosenblatt (shown above and below). Were she not so beautiful, one might find it more difficult to believe the romantic attachment that has grown between Hagit and Omri, the son of the owner of the toilet paper factory where Hagit has worked for some time.

Yes, toilet paper -- which adds to the bizarre originality of the situation, and also allows some wonderfully creative dress designing by our talented heroine. Hagit may not possess all the skills needed for a more standard work life, but she has found a kind of mini-career for herself, in addition to her factory job, making tiny dolls and designing dresses that are always nuptial-themed, a circumstance much coveted by our girl.

As Omri is written (and played by the excellent Roy Assaf, above, left), with an unstable combination of intelligence, weakness and caring, this character keeps us -- and perhaps himself, as well -- guessing throughout as to his real intentions. Hagit's caretaker is her mom Sarah (performed with alternate anger and strength by Assi Levy, below and three photos above), who has given up a lot, including a marriage, to shelter her daughter. Some kind of "caretaker home" looms in the background as an alternative to mom, and while we understandably do not want this for Hagit, we can also see the upside of the possibility.

When Omri's dad decides to shutter his factory, this already fraught situation comes to a head. What happens and why is quite in keeping with the rest of Gilady's shifting but always understandable scenario. And the question of how and if the handicapped can somehow fit into what passes for normal society is explored with honesty and empathy.

From Strand Releasing and running just 82 minutes, Wedding Doll opens here in South Florida this Friday, June 17 at the Living Room Theatres, Boca Raton; MDC’s Tower Theatre and AMC Sunset Place 24, Miami; Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood; and the Movies of Lake Worth in Lake Worth and the Movies of Delray in Delray Beach. To view other forthcoming playdates, cities and theaters, click here (and then click on Screenings on the task bar midway down the page).

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