REVIEW: לעבור את הקיר [Laavor et hakir] [The Wedding Plan] [2016]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½


Rating: PG | Runtime: 110 minutes | Release Date: October 27th, 2016 (Israel)
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Director(s): Rama Burshtein
Writer(s): Rama Burshtein

“It’s a small task for God to find me a groom by the end of Hanukkah”

Michal (Noa Koler) doesn’t want to get married. What she truly wants is to no longer be alone. She’s sick of being the person invited to get-togethers rather than the one doing the inviting so she enlists any matchmaker she can find in Jerusalem to help her wish come true. And it works. She finds a man who proposes (Erez Drigues‘ Gidi) and they begin their journey towards a beautiful wedding at the banquet hall owned by their matchmaker’s son Shimi (Amos Tamam). But Gidi bails as the moment of truth approaches, leaving Michal alone once again. Rejecting the idea of losing more years to unbearable heartbreak, she books the venue for the eighth day of Hanukkah anyway. She’ll organize everything herself and leave the groom to God.

It’s a wild concept dealing with faith, stubbornness, and self-discovery. Rama Burshtein‘s לעבור את הקיר [Laavor et hakir] [The Wedding Plan] ends up being a romantic fantasy billed as a romantic comedy, the laughs proving situational rather than laugh-out-loud. This could be a lost in cultural translation thing, but most of the jokes created via honest misunderstanding or mistrust possess a lot more drama and potential tragedy than a good time meant to cultivate a glimmer of hope. That optimism is instead born from our desire to see Michal defeat the naysayers with her kind heart and dedicated spirituality—to achieve the impossible in twenty-two days. We appreciate how she won’t just marry the first guy who asks. We understand her reasons and want the “miracle” to happen.

So off she goes to the chagrin of her mother (Irit Sheleg), using what she sees—her sister’s (Dafi Alferon) broken marriage and the futility of dating mirrored by best friend Feigi (Ronny Merhavi)—to motivate her journey and comfort her when confidence is at a low. Her friends do their best to keep spirits high as acquaintances find curiosity in the ordeal to win them onto her support team even if it’s with car crash fascination. The matchmakers start working double time to get the job done; Shimi applauds Michal’s inspiring if unorthodox faith; and the prospective suitors with their own eccentricities arrive in revolving door fashion. And with every step lies a candid honesty to ensure the fairy tale themes never overpower the human tale beneath.

My favorite moment is when Michal goes on a date with a deaf man whom she rejected as a match before Gidi came along. He asks what changed her mind and she replies, “Despair.” The truth in that statement is resonate because no matter how hard Michal yearns to find love, she will not demean the sanctity of marriage or the promise of everlasting devotion just to meet a deadline. If the wedding day comes and God doesn’t supply a groom, it will no doubt be the most embarrassing one of her life—worse than the time Gidi admitted he did not love her. As bad as that may be, though, it can’t be as demoralizing or tragic as watching the resulting union be proven a mistake years later.

Much like with the deaf man, all Michal’s encounters come with a bittersweet taste simultaneously rendering them disaster and promise. They’re each humbling as well—especially a chance meeting with famous pop star Yoss (Oz Zehavi), a man who can see past the weirdness of her plan towards its simplistic beauty. What Burshtein creates isn’t therefore the game many outsiders believe. This situation is a calculated necessity for her lead character as someone who can no longer endure the bad luck and missed opportunities that have ravaged her life. Michal is placing herself within an ultimatum devoid of compromise or second chances. Failure means that it wasn’t God’s plan to marry or have children. And if that’s the case, maybe she can embrace her solitude after all.

So The Wedding Plan is as cute as it is empowering with endearing performances from actors deftly traversing the spectrum of empathy. It’s Koler and the others who carry the load so intrigue remains high despite the ending proving obvious from very early on. Around two thirds of the way through there are three potential suitors, but we know in our hearts only one can truly save the day with the requisite knight-in-shining-armor heroics. And that’s okay because he’s continuously shone to be a man worthy of her love. As it is, calling any result but Michal living alone for the rest of her life believable feels problematic because the premise is so outlandish. As the days tick away, any prospect of actually meeting/marrying someone becomes heavily contrived.

This is why I almost wish that Burshtein dealt more with dream. There’s one instance where fantasy comes into play, but it’s brief and serves more as the foreshadowing of tragedy than happily ever after. If there were more, however, the finale’s otherworldly aesthetic in visual style could work better. This idea that Michal is fasting for the wedding and prone to hallucinations would play into the romantic comedy mold the film never quite fits. We too would wonder what was real and what wasn’t rather than feel we’re wading through the outcome we knew was always coming. It turns what should be an exciting moment into a bit of a slog because the event seems as though it thinks it’s more of a surprise than it is.

In my opinion, though, this climax is the least interesting piece of the whole. I enjoyed the messier bits much more—when Michal’s insecurities and anxiety are allowed to breathe and force the men opposite her to see her devoid of artifice. This in turn shines a light on their shortcomings to glimpse behind the veil of dating into the pettiness and profundity of split-second decisions and awkward misreadings. Koler is a natural from start to finish whether mired in scatterbrained self-loathing or bolstered by an unwavering belief that her true love awaits. We relate with her quick shifts from laughter to confusion to pain as she hears what she wants but knows it comes from someone she doesn’t. Perhaps God has a plan for us all.


photography:
[1] Noa Koler in THE WEDDING PLAN. Photo credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions Download
[2] Amos Tamam and Noa Koler in THE WEDDING PLAN. Photo credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
[3] Ronny Merhavi, Noa Koler, and Dafi Alferon in THE WEDDING PLAN. Photo credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Comments
One Response to “REVIEW: לעבור את הקיר [Laavor et hakir] [The Wedding Plan] [2016]”
  1. Abigail says:

    What is the name of the song that is played when the women are all dancing in the apartment before the wedding? It is a dance/club song and it’s so good!! I saw the movie last night but I can’t find any soundtrack lists online and I don’t speak Hebrew so I don’t remember any of the lyrics. It was so good, though, and I really want to hear it again! 🙂

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