'Marrying Myself': Don't settle for this Israeli rom-com - review

Romantic comedy is a genre that few Israeli directors have attempted.

 A SCENE from ‘Marrying Me.’ (photo credit: United King Films)
A SCENE from ‘Marrying Me.’
(photo credit: United King Films)

Marrying Myself is a slight Israeli film that aims for a twist on the traditional rom-com formula and fails by delivering a preachy message, but it is saved – at least somewhat – by the talent of its cast.

The movie, by Eran B.Y., tells the story of Gabby (Hila Saada, who played Vanessa, the funniest character by far, on Beauty and the Baker and Roza on The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem), a young woman who has done everything she can think of, but still hasn’t found herself a groom. “What am I doing wrong?” she asks her girlfriends. “I drink zero calories, I give 100% of my soul.”

They nurse her through yet another breakup, this one with a guy who turns out to have been cheating on his wife with her, although she thought he was single. Once she realizes that she has done all she can, she announces to her friends and her controlling mother (Anat Waxman) that she is marrying herself.

She schedules a ceremony, invites everyone and decides to have her pool partly covered and hold the ceremony on top of it (although she works in a laser surgery clinic, she owns a rather improbably luxurious pad that was an inheritance from her grandmother). Before you can say, “I bet she falls in love with the guy she hires to cover the pool,” Asi (Dean Miroshnikov, one of the stars of Charlie Golf One, a.k.a. Combat Medics), a particularly gorgeous carpenter enters the picture. He has done prison time but now he seems sweet and they fall for each other.

The script, which cannot decide how much it wants to make fun of Gabby for deciding to marry herself and how much her decision should be celebrated, tries to keep the suspense going, especially after a goofy rabbi finds them together and assumes that Asi is her groom.

Film festival (Illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE PHOTOS)Film festival (Illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE PHOTOS)

This idea might have worked if it had been done in short sitcom episodes for television or a streaming service, but on the big screen every flaw of the script is highlighted. Every scene is stretched to the slowest pace possible, with almost no genuine laughs. In spite of the brightly colored sets and costumes and high energy level of the cast, I found it challenging to stay awake.

Romantic comedy is a genre that few Israeli directors have attempted. Eytan Fox’s 1994 adaptation of Irit Linur’s novel, The Song of the Siren – which featured current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as one of the love interests – was set at an advertising agency during the First Gulf War and it was punctuated by SCUD missile alerts.

Yana’s Friends, a 1999 film by Arik Kaplun, also set in the Gulf War, about a young Russian bride abandoned by her husband who falls for her photographer neighbor, featured a love scene with both partners wearing gas masks, which may suggest that it is hard for directors to forget about the political situation and tell a love story here.

Rama Burshtein’s 2016 The Wedding Plan was about a newly religious ultra-Orthodox bride jilted weeks before her wedding who decides she will find a groom and go through with the wedding anyway.

Avi Nesher’s 1979 Dizengoff 99, a coming-of-age drama about two guys and a girl working in an ad agency and living together, was a romantic comedy of sorts, while Leon Prudovsky’s 2009 Five Hours from Paris, about a Russian music teacher and an Israeli cab driver, never got its due. There are very few other examples. Perhaps, more than the political situation, it is Israelis’ natural skepticism that makes it difficult to tell this kind of simple, often improbable, upbeat romantic story.

The saving grace of Marrying Myself is the cast, especially the two leads. Saada has an offbeat beauty and charm that Pedro Almodovar would have celebrated if she were working in Spain and she has a likable quality that makes you root for her. Miroshnikov has a mischievous smile that saves his model-perfect looks from being too bland. This movie made me want to see both of these actors in a better movie, sooner rather than later.