A 30-something woman is dumped by her fiancé, but she forges ahead with her wedding plans convinced that a groom will show up on the big day. Take two cups of water, add Jennifer Aniston, stir and you have the latest American romantic comedy for the big screen.
Well, it would be if “The Wedding Plan” had been directed by anyone other than American-Israeli writer and director Rama Burshtein. Unlike the average American rom-com, “The Wedding Plan” wades into the deeper waters of an unshakable faith in God.
At the heart of “The Wedding Plan” is 32-year-old Michal, an Orthodox Jew. Michal is finally engaged, thanks to the help of a matchmaker. A month before the wedding however, Michal is emotionally devastated when her betrothed calls off the wedding, telling her he doesn’t love her. Her hopes of having the comfort and security of marriage are dashed, but rather than fall into despair, Michal continues her wedding plans, renting a hall, buying a wedding dress and even sending out invitations without a groom’s name. She is determined to marry on the eighth night of Hanukkah and trusts whole-heartedly that God will provide her with a husband.
“It’s more about faith and about believing in God and about not giving in to despair than it is about marriage,” Burshtein said in a phone interview from Tel Aviv. “It’s more about finding yourself and believing that anything is possible, and in God’s world, anything is possible. If you want faith, it’s really something you have to practice. You have to train yourself to believe. It’s not something that is there and it stays. It’s very dynamic and it’s work.”
Despite skepticism and concern from her family, who are not Orthodox, Michal enlists the services of two matchmakers and goes on a series of increasingly comic dates. But make no mistake; Michal is not a princess waiting to be saved by her prince. She’s honest and straightforward to the point some might find self-sabotaging.
“Is it self-sabotaging or is it an obstacle that needs to be there because it’s the most crucial choice of your life and you have to kind of check it out? She was almost married. The date was there, everything was there and she couldn’t go back to dating and just going from one day to another – she’s been doing this for too long,” Burshtein said. “Yes, she’s doing this very crazy thing, but there is now something in her character that was not there before. I think it’s even stronger than she is.”
Burshtein was born in New York in 1967, and raised in Israel. She graduated from the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem in 1994. During those years, she became deeply religious and upon graduation dedicated herself to promoting film as a tool for self-expression in the Orthodox community.
“The Wedding Plan” is Burshtein’s second film. Her first, “Fill the Void,” also looked at marriage from an Orthodox point of view, but it was a more somber film dealing with a woman who is being pressured by her family to marry her sister’s widower.
“The Wedding Plan” is a much lighter confection. A handsome pop star is even thrown into the mix for Michal.
“The pop star is very, very shiny and very, very glamorous,” Burshtein said. “We are all kind of attracted to him. A lot of people wanted him to be the one. He’s smart in the way he connected with her. He’s drawn to this genuine thing about her. For her it was a fight, too, because it would have been very easy to kind of go with it because he’s so gorgeous and he’s really there, and there’s something so vibrant in the connection. She almost went there. She almost went with a fairytale, but I say reality is stronger than a fairytale.”
A nominee for Best Film at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, “The Wedding Plan” stars Noa Kooler as Michal. The film opens May 19 at the Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square in Scottsdale. It is in Hebrew with English subtitles.