Central Florida Jewish Film Festival
Sunday, Nov. 22,
and Monday, Nov. 23
A Matter of Size (4 Stars) Israeli chef Herzl (an endearing Itzik Cohen) can't catch a break: He weighs over 300 pounds, he's demoted to the back of his restaurant for his appearance, and his diet support group shames him for never being able to lose weight. When he meets Zehava (Irit Kaplan), however, things begin to turn around. The plus-size woman accepts him for who he is (even though both are guilt-ridden over their disorders) and then, as often happens when one is falling in love, things turn his way. He's introduced to the sport of sumo, in which large men are worshipped for being large. He brings along his circle of large friends and even they start to find acceptance. (One of them finds comfort in the revelation that "bears" like himself are valued in certain gay communities.) As the film, directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor, rockets toward a sporty climax, the filmmakers, like their characters, find their stride and run with it. A Matter of Size is a welcome diversion, one that not only showcases a domesticated and liberal side of Israel, but delights and amuses as well.
The Debt (4 Stars) Quietly wrenching, suspenseful, Assaf Bernstein's The Debt is an elegant thriller rooted in raw emotion but dressed up as a spy "mission" picture. In the late '60s, young Mossad agent Rachel Berner, assisted by two male agents, is sent to locate a brutal Nazi war criminal hiding out as a gynecologist. The young team successfully captures him, but holding him becomes a problem. He disappears, and the young agents devise a heroic story to cover their tracks upon their return home. Now, 35 years later, a nursing-home patient claims he is the escaped criminal. The aging former agents must silence him for good. What begins as a cover-up plot unfolds into a heightened state of paranoia that recalls Hitchcock's hushed masterpiece Rope.
For My Father (2 Stars) Not to sound disrespectful, but is it possible that so many dull movies will eventually be made about the plight of suicide bombers that the strapped fanatics will come to find the whole endeavor clichéd and just stop? (That is what happened with the Mafia, right? I once heard Tony Soprano say, "There is no Mafia," and he wouldn't lie.) Joining a parade of such recent films is this selection from director Dror Zahavi about a Pakistani man, Tarek, whose diabolical plan is thwarted when he falls for the drop-dead gorgeous Keren (Hili Yalon, whose eyes could cut diamonds), an Israeli woman who is so hot even her own people want to kill her. A slightly absurd variation on Romeo and Juliet plays out, while the sticks of dynamite remain attached to Tarek. Although nicely shot and performed, the script sleepwalks through the typical turns of this age-old screw. Here's hoping that Yalon sees a Franka Potente-style crossover to the States.
The Little Traitor (2 Stars) It's tough to find an Alfred Molina performance that is not of some value; his doughy face and British propriety convey a sense of ease that few working actors can claim. And Molina's reputation will not suffer at the hands of this eye-roller from writer-director Lynn Roth, adapted from a novel by Jewish author Amos Oz. Roth and his appallingly wooden choice for the bright, prepubescent boy at the heart of the movie (Ido Port) do not get off as easy as Molina. As Proffy, a wannabe freedom fighter in 1947 occupied Israel who hates British soldiers as much as he loves his sexy neighbor, Port fails to register as believable or sympathetic in a film that depends solely on such things. Proffy befriends a Brit soldier (Molina) and the two spend inordinate amounts of time together talking precociously about nothing in particular, wasting away the time until the British go home. Any hope of a presentable story is emphatically dashed by a ludicrous firstname.lastname@example.org