THE WEDDING PLAN
Director: Rama Burshtein
Cast: Noa Koler, Amos Tamam, Oz Zehavi, Dafi Alferon, Ronny Merhavi, Irit Sheleg
MPAA Rating: (for thematic elements)
Running Time: 1:50
Release Date: 5/12/17 (limited); 5/19/17 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 18, 2017
If nothing else, The Wedding Plan is a good reminder of how simple it can be to make a good romantic comedy. Here's one with a strong protagonist, a clever plot gimmick, and a genuine sense of tension because of those first two elements. It's as simple as that, really.
The complications and obstacles to the heroine's happiness, which are basically a given for this sort of movie, aren't contrived, either. They come from the protagonist herself, whom writer/director Rama Burshtein allows to be complicated. Michal (Noa Koler) have some quirks, but she's not "quirky." She may have difficulty in obtaining a relationship, but she's not "difficult." While she may be devoutly religious, she's not a zealot, and while she's convinced that there will be some divine intervention on her behalf in order for her to find a husband, Michal is equally convinced that she isn't worthy of that intervention.
Yes, Michal is complicated, and she's all the more relatable and likeable for it. From her, the film, from Israel, creates its story's central protagonist and antagonist. Burshtein may have given us something that acts like a traditional romantic comedy, but within that framework, she has made a perceptive study of a woman who is both so insecure and self-centered that she cannot help but sabotage her relationships, her chances at happiness, and her whole life.
A devout Jew, Michal wants to be married. It isn't working out for her, so she sees a fortune teller of sorts who insists on Michal's absolute honesty. After some mild stalling, she lets it all out. It's not just about being married. She doesn't want to be alone. Michal is certain that there's something wrong with her, because no man seems to want to be with her. She wants, above all else, to feel normal.
We get a peek at what might be causing some men's hesitation to be around Michal for long, let alone marry her. About a year after the visit to the sort-of fortune teller, Michal is engaged to be married to Gidi (Erez Drigues). The ceremony will take place in 22 days, on the eighth night of Chanukah. While tasting the food at the reception hall, Michal keeps asking her fiancé what's wrong. He won't answer, and after some loaded words and phrases (such as "suffocating" and "need to breathe"), he lets out the truth: He doesn't love her.
Michal says she has given up on looking for a husband, although not in the way one might expect at first. She has a plan.
The wedding will go on as scheduled. Michal doesn't need to have a future husband right now, because she is certain that, since she is a good and religious woman, God will provide her with one on the day of the wedding. She just needs to be there.
Michal isn't dumb, though. She knows that she still has to do some of the work. The film follows her on a series of blind dates, set up by a pair of matchmakers whose frustration oozes from the phone whenever they call this most troublesome client. There's a sense of freedom to these dates, since Michal is no longer burdened by the need to put on her "best self."
She's honest, sometimes bluntly, such as during a date with a deaf man, whom she rejected for a date about a year ago. He wants to know why (She thought it would be too "complicated"), and then he wants to know why Michal is now willing to see him. There's a painfully awkward moment in which the man and his translator are unresponsive in succession—the deaf man to gather his response and the translator to relate that response to Michal.
She has some better encounters, of course, because there would be no tension without them. The most promising ones have nothing to do with her dating. There's Shimi (Amos Tamam), who owns the reception hall. He's a handsome and gentle man who's rooting for Michal's success, even though he believe she's crazy for trusting in a miracle. Alas, he's married. While visiting a holy site in the Ukraine, she meets Yos (Oz Zehavi), a famous musician who seems kind and attentive. She's instantly attracted to him, and he doesn't run away when Michal informs him of her plan. There's a conversation between the two later on that serves as a prime example of the way that, even with her deadline, Michal is unable to escape her self-sabotaging ways. One man, whom she meets on a date, is as blunt as she is, and while that seems to be a dead end, a last-minute phone call suggests otherwise.
The obvious suspense is in which man—if any of them or, for that matter, any man—will show up at the wedding. The tension isn't simply a matter of the plot. Burshtein includes some heavy religious overtones, too, suggesting that her success or failure will determine whether her religious beliefs are worth the possible pain.
That's too heavy, though. The suspense is far simpler than that. It's primarily about wanting Michal to find happiness, with or without a husband (Even though her happiness seems dependent, at least in her mind, on having one), and to appreciate the fact that her problems might not be with the person she is.
A lot of this rides on Koler's performance, which is the kind of perfect balancing act of perceptive acting and natural charisma from which stars are made. She's a delight in the film, and The Wedding Plan itself is one, too.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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