“The Wedding Plan” – an open-hearted story about finding Orthodox love in a non-Orthodox way

Nutshell: With hints of Pride and Prejudice and Muriel’s Wedding, The Wedding Plan is a sweet, quirky, and heartfelt look at women, men, marriage, and faith. Faith in yourself, faith in your family and friends, and faith that everything will turn out okay.  That this has an Orthodox spin on things only adds depth and honesty to a lovely story. An honest, beautifully crafted look at life, love and longing.  Grade: A

“How long can I date?”

Story: Michal, an Orthodox Jewish woman living in Jerusalem, is getting married!  One small problem; her fiance ended things, and so there’s no groom.  But Michal has faith that a groom will appear by her wedding date.  Full steam ahead!

Genre I’d put it in: Quirky Rom-Coms With Not-so-hidden Depth

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Wholly original.

Gotta say: I’ll admit that “Orthodox Jewish Rom-Com” had me intrigued.  And the idea of a woman thinking that everything will work out as she’d like it to sounded like a fascinating premise.  But The Wedding Plan is more than just a look at how one woman’s quest to get herself “normal” married.  It’s a look at marriage itself.

As Michal searches for a man who will “sing to her”, we see that she’s surrounded by marriages that are less than stellar.  Michal’s sister Sigi (Dafi Alferon, in a wonderful performance full of reckless abandon and real heart) constantly wars with her husband, then re-commits.  The ruggedly handsome, openhearted owner of the wedding hall (Amos Tamam) sleeps at the hall instead of at home with his wife.  And yet Michal and her cornrow sporting BFF Feggi (Ronny Merhavi) continue to ask matchmakers to help them find spouses.

The twist is that Michal isn’t some wilting lily that’s desperate for a man.  Well okay; with the clock ticking, she’s kinda desperate.  But she’s got standards that won’t allow her to simply accept the first thing that comes her way.  And that’s the real charm in this film.  Unlike the typical “will he pop the question?” trope we all know and love from the Harlequin romances we snuck off of our grandmother’s bookshelf, Michal gets asked.  Quite a few times, in fact.  But which one will she choose?  Or better yet, which one makes her sing?

It looks as if Michal chose Orthodoxy, rather than being born into it; her sister, mother, and friends are either Reform, or have a passing nod to synagogue during major holidays.  (The film mentions that Michal is looking for a “Breslov” Hasidim, which is a bit more open to variations in dress, and worship.) This mixture of ways of belief within the story not only gives Michal more and varied opinions, but shines a vibrant light on Jerusalem and its people.  Yet while Michal’s Orthodoxy does feature prominently in the story, it’s her search for love and meaning for her life that takes center stage.  That’s apparent right up front, from her Mobile Petting Zoo business.  Yep, she’s Orthodox, and a businesswoman who has a pretty kickass job.  Director Rama Burshtein (Fill the Void), an Orthodox Jew herself, does an amazing job showing the real lives of the Orthodox, and fascinating, funny, and, well, kosher.

I found myself smitten by few possible husbands as she tries to figure that out. A man Michal meets who immediately asks her to marry him – but won’t look at her – is adorable but maybe too crazy even for Michal’s offbeat personality. Another suitor gets her to reveal her honest self, and doesn’t shy away… Then there’s  Yos (Oz Zehavi), a pop star Michal meets during a pilgrimage.  He’s sweet, open, quirky, and feels like Michal’s other half, but can an Orthodox Jew be happy with a pop star?  As the clock keeps ticking, it’s Michal’s faith in her future, steadfast refusal to hitch her star to just anyone, and total lack of an edit button that makes her a charming lead I couldn’t help but root for.

That there’s a wedding at the end isn’t in doubt; the hall’s booked, the catering taken care of, the dress purchased.  But will she have a groom?  With The Wedding Plan, it’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey.  And the bonds of sisterhood, family, and friendship that get her there.

#Protip: For her portrayal of Michal, actress Noa Koler won Best Actress in the category Israeli Feature Films at the Haifa International Film Festival 2016. Mazel!

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