Tuesday, May 16, 2017

So much more than it might initially appear: Rama Burshtein's THE WEDDING PLAN

When, a month or so back, we caught a trailer for THE WEDDING PLAN at a local movie house, this new film from Rama Burshtein looked for all the word like some silly Israeli sitcom/rom-com in which a bride-to-be is dumped by her man but decides to go ahead with a wedding anyhow -- in hopes of finding a new groom in time for the deadline. Oy! Right? But hold on. Burshtein, a born-in-New-York-City filmmaker (shown below) who works in Israel and who gave us the interesting Fill the Void a few years back, has more on her fervid mind that mere laughs and romance.

Ms Burshtein is interested in everything from the Jewish religion (Orthodox-style) to faith, psychology (she's quite astute in this department), love and limerence. And her heroine, Michal -- beautifully played by newcomer Noa Koler (above and below) with a ripe combo of intelligence, desperation and genuine appeal -- is no typical ditz, even though she does do a number of ditsy things in the course of this funny, surprising, and finally somewhat unsettling film. Burshtein and her leading character question an awful lots of the things that the Jewish orthodox religion would prefer that we take for granted and then shut up about.

Chief among these is -- as usual with any fundamentalist religion -- the male prerogative. But more than merely bashing us menfolk, Burshtein points the finger of guilt just as squarely at the gals and how they react to the idea of marriage and men and being saved and sheltered. Not that this is all so wrong, mind you, but it's more about how this attitude can come to control one's life choices.

What makes the movie most enjoyable and penetrating, however, is the way in which the filmmaker treats all her characters: She lets us see them as they are, and not simply via her heroine's perspective. Consequently, they're richer and more interesting people -- from the unusual matchmaker, a visit to whom begins the movie, to Michal's friends and relatives (above), and especially the prospective "grooms" (a date or two with each that the movie treats us to).

From the initial no-can-do bridegroom (above) to the unusually alert and empathetic fellow Michal meets on her trip to the Ukraine (below), these guys are not the nitwit why-bother "dates" with which so many rom-coms regale us. The movie also makes it clear that this woman's self-image is not all that it might be (note how Michal manages to somehow reject what is being offered to her again and again).

As D-Day approaches and the possibilities seem to lessen, Ms Burshtein would appear to be painting her heroine into a corner from which she can't escape. But not quite. The filmmaker's insistence on addressing faith, religion and a woman's place in all this pays off -- but not at all in the way you will expect.

TrustMovies  could be way off-base here, but it seems to me that the filmmaker is indicting orthodox Jewish religion as offering its women far too little too late, thus forcing them into the kind of servitude (to god, or so the religion says, but funny how it's really to men) that renders them second-class. But how to get out of this?

Burshtein offers more questions than answers. But her questions are intelligent ones, and her movie is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining and smart. Just like her heroine.

From Roadside Attractions and running 110 minutes, The Wedding Plan opened last weekend in New York City and hits a number of other cities this Friday, May 19. Here in South Florida, it will play the Miami area at the AMC Aventura Mall 24, Regal's South Beach 18 and The Classic Gateway in Fort Lauderdale. In Palm Beach County look for it at the Regal Shadowood, Living Room Theaters, Cinemark Palace 20 and Movies of Delray and Movies of Lake Worth the latter on May 26), and the AMC City Place 20. Elsewhere around the country? I'm sure so, but I have not been able to locate a link to the locations in other areas. Good luck, as this movie is worth seeking out.

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