When I finished watching the now-famous series Shtisel, I thought to myself, it’s not as easy as I had thought to write a great piece of entertainment, yet Shtisel is a masterpiece.
I could have never done it. Every word in the right place, every expression, every move, every glance falls perfect. There is no feeling of “Look at those religious jews”... but more of, “We are all the same at the end of the day. We love, we fear, we laugh and we die.”
Unorthodox, another wildly popular hit from Netflix, proved me exactly the opposite. After seeing it I thought to myself, I can do better.
That’s the only positive point I have for this series: It will push me to give voice to us writers, directors to make better stuff to watch.
OK, let’s start.
The series takes place nowadays, not in the 18th century.
Esty, the woman that carries the movie, doesn’t carry me anywhere, she just gives me from the moment I see her on-screen a very uncomfortable feeling of a woman/girl/abused/abusive... I cannot figure her out. She is wearing clothes that I haven’t seen in Williamsburg in the past 30 years; her wig is nondescript, I have never seen such a disaster.
In the opening scene, she’s trying to flee her neighborhood, but it’s shabbat and the eruv has been broken so she cannot carry. She is not dressed in Shabbat clothes; that would be much more eye-catching to her friends who meet her downstairs than the fact that she looks like she’s rushing somewhere and no one even asks.
From that moment on, it’s continuous scenes with mistakes and surreal situations, like when during the beautiful Seder night she doesn’t feel well, so she goes out and looks for an open pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test to go back to her flat alone and take it... in the middle of the Seder... like totally surreal.
In the wedding scene, she looks beautiful, I must say, but the rest of the family and guests are so poorly dressed, not like at a Satmar wedding, where they all tend to really overdress...
And yes, let’s get to the steamy sex scene.
It made me laugh.
You wanted it to be brutal? You wanted to show the religious Jews that they rape their own wives, so give it to me. You want it a bit romantic, you want it a bit erotic? There is nada there.
The beautiful husband has zero expression and personality, Esty keeps on telling him that she is different, but you don’t get her difference really. What does she want, freedom, good sex, to play piano, wear jeans? I don’t get her and worst of all she doesn’t get to me.
The only character that makes some noise here is Yankee’s cousin, Mosihe the rebel, good-looking, maniac, Israel hater. Despicable yet almost entertaining, something to look at, some vibes come through, at least some Hollywood!
All the rest is forgotten the moment you turn it off.
You can’t stop watching because without you even knowing it, it’s so bad, yet you are waiting just to see: will she finally have amazing Hollywood sex with that gorgeous German guy she meets, will Yankee find her and brutally bring her back home after Moishe will rape her first, or will she find her mother and seek revenge?
Even all those expectations were not fulfilled. The worst things she does is that she eats a ham croissant and throws up in the toilet of the German cafeteria. So sad.
You want to make a movie and bring down the religious Satmar community? Do it, but do it well and correctly.
This is a half-job badly done.
Or, you can make a movie and show the world the beauty even in communities like Mea She’arim and do a masterpiece like Shtisel.
Come on, Unorthodox.
I can do better.
And I can’t wait.
Spread love not hate, no matter what.
The writer is from Italy and lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five kids. She heads HadassahChen as a director, writer and performer. She also heads the Keren Navah Ruth Foundation in memory of her daughter, to help families with sick children. firstname.lastname@example.org