If “The Wedding Plan” was a Hollywood movie, it would be considered a screwball comedy. There are amusing moments but there’s a feeling of uncertainty as opposed to predestined heavenly matchmaking and heaven is involved because “The Wedding Plan” takes place in Israel, focusing on a religious woman named Michal. As the poster for the movie spells out, she has 30 days to find a husband.
When we first meet Michal (Noa Kooler), we see the back of a her neck. A mass of unruly, thick brown curling hair frames her state of mind. She’s visiting a woman who smears fish on her face to help her focus. In an off-white print dress, Michal blends in rather than standing out. The question is at 120 shekels a plate, just how badly does she want to marry.
Michal is instructed to knead risen dough. She punches it with her fists on a table above which there are 21 photos arranged in three rows of seven. She admits she doesn’t want to be alone. “I want love” she tells the older woman. She wants “to please God.”
The medium warns her, “If you don’t tell the truth how can we clear obstacles?”
Finally Michal admits, “I want to be normal” and “I want to be respected because I have a spouse.” Then she adds, “I want to invite people over to Shabbat instead of being invited.”
The wedding wasn’t a a whim. Michal was once engaged to Gidi. In a flashback, we see him. He’s a traditional Orthodox Jew man with kippah on his head. He has long hair and beard, his sideburns in a payot, long-curled sidelocks. Michal’s hair is smoothed back and ends in a careful cascade of curls at the back of her head. Her dress is a burnt orange is modestly attractive but the color grows brighter as Michal’s face pales. Sensing her fiancé’s reticence toward a question, a hesitation on his part, she continues to question him until he admits, “I don’t love you.”
While she hasn’t exactly been left at the altar, she has been betrayed. The wedding hall has been reserved. The guests have been invited. She has a gown. She just doesn’t have a groom.
After this awkward moment, she calls him but he doesn’t call back. Michal calculates she has been dating for 10 years and that comes to an impressive 490 hours with 123 guys. Things get worse; from another friend she finds out that Gidi and Ziva, her roommate, are getting married. Yet somehow, Michal believes that in 30 days, God will provide a groom.
There are possibilities including one that would seem too Hollywood happy ending. The ending comes with tears and hope. While you might question the wisdom of normalcy defined by marriage, this film provides a different view of romance, one that is chaste, faith-based and still has sparkle of something like love. None of the characters here are perfect model-esque people. The casting makes this more believable and the emphasis is on women.
Rama Burshtein’s second feature film was nominated for Best Film at the 2016 Venice Film Festival and is playing at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 and Town Center until May 25. It opens at the Monica Film Center on June 2.