Descendents of a great Zionist legacy who have been left behind as Tel Aviv has become more gentrified.
By HANNAH BROWN
OUT OF THE BLUE
Written and directed by Igal Burstyn. Hebrew title: Etzba Elohim. 92 minutes. In Hebrew.
With Alon Aboutboul,
Moshe Ivgy, Dorit Bar-On
Rarely does a film have a more apt title than Out of the Blue. Nothing in this urban fable quite makes sense. It is never compelling dramatically, but it does feature enjoyable performances by its two very likable leads, Moshe Ivgy and Alon Aboutboul. The two excel at playing nebbishy guys. And, while it's fun to watch them having a good time, as the film goes on you'll start to wish that you were having as much fun as they are.
While the actors do all they can to make the movie shimmer, they can't make up for some bedrock inconsistencies in the story itself. Eventually, you'll be as mystified as these two sad sacks are through most of the film, only instead of wondering what you're doing with your life, you'll ponder what drove director Igal Burstyn to make this movie in the first place.
The whole contemporary urban fable is a genre that I usually don't like. (Though if you want to see a masterful example of it, check out Danny Boyle's current mega-hit Slumdog Millionaire.) More often than not, it's an unconvincing mess on the order of Out of the Blue (the Hebrew title, which literally translates to the finger of God, is much less on target).
Alon Aboutboul (most recently seen in the Leonardo DiCaprio/Russell Crowe film, Body of Lies, in which he plays an Osama bin Laden-like terrorist) is Shabtai, who ekes out a living as a junk dealer on the streets of Tel Aviv. He works with his even more sad-eyed sidekick, Herzl, played by Ivgy (who used to appear in virtually every Israeli movie made, but who's a little more selective these days).
The characters' shared occupation - and Herzl's name - bears more metaphorical weight than is healthy. They are the descendents of a great Zionist legacy who have been left behind as Tel Aviv has become more gentrified. They pick over and live off of the junk left by affluent yuppies.
Shabtai has a bit more of a life than Herzl, since he is married and has children. But he can barely support them. One night he dreams of a beautiful woman and then sees her on television.
Turns out the woman's Lili Dekel (Dorit Bar-Or), a cosmetics mogul a la Pnina Rosenblum who spouts a lot of New Age, Self-Help jargon and captivates everyone, women and men alike. Through a series of improbable coincidences, Shabtai and Herzl meet her. Although Shabtai is hopelessly in love with her, she falls hopelessly in love with Herzl.
But Herzl is smitten with Batya (Zehavit Passi), Shabtai's plain, athletic adolescent daughter. Just as you are processing the icky aspects of that situation, the movie gets caught up in some very dull plotting and it loses whatever imaginative spark it had at the beginning.
As silly as this must sound, most of it is more than the sum of its parts. It really comes alive whenever Dorit Bar-On is on screen. With her flaming red hair, scarlet lips and magenta dresses, Bar-On gives a brilliant parody of all those shopping-channel motivational queens, but adds a sexy aura of her own. You can certainly see why she would captivate the men (she's so competent, she can even repair cars!).
But the movie doesn't know quite what to do with her. Is she a fantasy woman, a figure to be made fun of, or a symbol of shallow materialism to be reviled? Even asking the question is probably taking it all too seriously. The movie will be enjoyed most by fans of Ivgy and Aboutboul. It's a shame these two shaggy dogs didn't get a better script to show off their talents.
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