The Women’s Balcony (Ismach Hatani)
Menemsha Films / Pie Films
Women Resist Replacement Rabbi’s Repressive Rules In Delightful Tale Of Female Empowerment
A bar mitzvah is in full swing at an Orthodox temple in Jerusalem when the balcony designated for women worshipers suddenly gives way. Once the dust settles, the attendees discover to their horror that the collapse has left the wife of the rabbi in a coma, and her inconsolable husband (Abraham Celektar) in a state of shock.
As the days roll by, it becomes clear that neither Rabbi Menashe nor the Mussyof Synagogue will be back to normal anytime soon. With the building closed pending renovations, the congregation is initially grateful to find a temporary home out of town. However, its distant location makes it impossible to assemble a minyan, the quorum of 10 required to stage a religious service.
A savior seemingly arrives in David (Avraham Aviv Alush), a young rabbi who is not only willing to host services nearby but to supervise the synagogue’s restoration project. Trouble is, he is also an ardent advocate of an ultra-orthodox philosophy, and it isn’t long before he attempts to implement his patriarchal interpretation of the scriptures.
First, he directs the women to exhibit more modesty by always covering their heads with a scarf. Next, he announces that the temple’s balcony will not be repaired after all and that they will have to pray in a different room from the men for now on, as dictated by ancient tradition.
None of this news sits well with the tight-knit ladies of Mussyof who immediately mount a rebellion. Taking a page out of Aristophanes’ 2,500-year-old classic, Lysistrata, as well as from Spike Lee’s latest “joint,” Chi-Raq, they conspire to withhold sex until their hubbies come to their senses.
All of the above plays out in hilarious fashion in The Women’s Balcony, a delightful tale of female empowerment directed by Emil Ben-Shiron. The picture was already a hit over in Israel where it landed five of that country’s Academy Award nominations. Kudos, too, to Menemsha Films’ Neil Friedman who has an uncanny knack of acquiring charming sleepers certain to resonate with art house aficionados, a la Dough, The Rape Of Europa, Beauty In Trouble and The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg, to name a few.
Don’t miss Menemsha’s latest jewel, a comical clash of outlooks, pitting a self-assured sisterhood against a bewildered, backwards brotherhood.
Excellent (4 stars)
In Hebrew with subtitles
Running time: 96 minutes
Rated R for profanity and violence.
Recluse Comes To Regret Bringing Good Samaritan Home In Riveting Suspense Thriller
Paul (Antonio Banderas) is the literary equivalent of a one-hit wonder. The flash in the pan enjoyed a short-lived success, thanks to the best-seller he published while still in his twenties. Back then, he became the toast of the town when the popular tome was adapted to the big screen, even though the movie bore no resemblance to his book besides having the same title.
But that was decades ago. Now, all the money’s gone. The hangers-on have disappeared, too, and so has his wife (Alexandra Klim). As of late, he’s turned into a recluse, living alone in the mountains of Colorado in a rundown cabin he can no longer afford to keep up.
He fritters away most of his days drinking at a desk in a darkened room, praying for the inspiration to produce another masterpiece. Unfortunately, he’s suffering from such a terrible case of writer’s block that all he ever types are the words “I am stuck” over and over again.
Upon bottoming out with little hope of recovering, Paul admits to himself that it’s time to sell his house. So, he lists the property with Laura (Piper Perabo), an attractive realtor he hires more for her looks than her expertise. After all, he knows her very first client.
His judgment proves even worse when it comes to making friends. For, he decides to bring back to his place the Good Samaritan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who saved him from a trucker with road rage. Only after Paul agrees to let the stranger crash for a few days, does the guy reveal that he “just got out of prison and ain’t never goin’ back.”
Might this be the creep responsible for the recent rash of murders in the area? Unfortunately, Paul’s located in an isolated spot in the woods without any internet, TV or cell phone service. Nevertheless, the plot thickens with the unannounced arrival of several visitors, including Laura, a delivery boy (Nicholas Aaron), and a cop (Vincent Riotta) looking for a missing mailman.
Thus unfolds Black Butterfly, an English language-remake of Papillon Noir (2008), a French film featuring the same basic premise. Directed by Brian Goodman (Sal), this compelling suspense thriller slowly ratchets up the tension only to unravel during the denouement, thanks to a humdinger of a twist.
A riveting whodunit spoiled somewhat by a rabbit-out-of-the-hat resolution.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 93 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 9, 2017
It Comes At Night (R for profanity, violence and disturbing images) Post-apocalyptic suspense thriller about a couple (Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo) with a son (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) who successfully evade the deadly plague terrorizing the planet until, against their better judgment, they decide to share their cabin in the woods with a desperate family seeking refuge from the scourge. With Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner.
Megan Leavey (PG-13 for violence, profanity, mature themes and suggestive material) Kate Mara portrays the title character in this Iraq War docudrama chronicling the real-life exploits of a Marine corporal who successfully conducted over 100 missions with the help of a combat dog until an IED injures them both. Supporting cast includes Common, Edie Falco, Will Patton and Bradley Whitford.
The Mummy (PG-13 for action, violence, partial nudity, scary images and suggestive content) Sofia Boutella assumes the title role in this reboot of the horror franchise revolving around an ancient princess entombed for millennia in a crypt buried deep in the desert who is suddenly revived as a terrifying malevolent force. Co-starring Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Courtney B. Vance and Annabelle Wallis.
My Cousin Rachel (PG-13 for sexuality and brief profanity) Adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel about a revenge-minded Englishman (Sam Claflin) who finds himself falling in love with the cousin (Rachel Weisz) he suspects murdered his guardian (Iain Glen).With Holliday Grainger, Andrew Knott and Poppy Lee Friar.
As Good As You (Unrated) Bittersweet dramedy about a grieving lesbian (Laura Heisler) who asks her late wife’s brother (Bryan Dechart) to donate the sperm for her artificial insemination, only to subsequently land in a love triangle with her two BFFs (Anna Fitzwater and Raoul Bhaneja). Featuring Annie Potts, Peter Maloney and Karis Campbell.
Beatriz At Dinner (R for profanity and a scene of violence) Salma Hayek portrays the title character in this fish-out-of-water comedy as a Mexican masseuse who is invited to join a wealthy client’s (Connie Britton) family for supper when her car won’t start following a treatment. With John Lithgow, Chloe Sevigny and Jay Duplass.
Camera Obscura (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a war photographer with PTSD (Christopher Denham) who starts questioning his sanity when he is able to forecast imminent deaths from snapshots he’s taken. Featuring Catherine Curtin, Chase Williamson and Nadja Bobyleva and Noah Segan.
The Hero (R for drug use, profanity and sexuality) Sam Elliott stars as the title character in this bittersweet portrait of an aging star of Westerns who finds himself facing his mortality after being diagnosed with cancer. Supporting cast includes Nick Offerman, Katharine Ross and Laura Prepon.
The Hunter’s Prayer (R for violence, profanity and drug use) Cat-and-mouse thriller about an assassin (Sam Worthington) who ends up on the run with a woman (Odeya Rush) he decides not to kill. With Martin Compston, Tina Maskell and Eben Young. (In English, German and French with subtitles)
I Love You Both (Unrated) Sibling rivalry dramedy about a twin brother (Doug Archibald) and sister (Krystin Archibald) whose tight bond becomes strained when they start dating the same guy (Lucas Neff). Featuring Artemis Pebdani, Angela Trimbur and Kate Berlant.
Night School (Unrated) Against-the-odds documentary chronicling the efforts of three students to graduate from one of Indianapolis’ worst, inner-city high schools.
Raising Bertie (Unrated) Coming-of-age documentary chronicling a half-dozen years in the lives of a trio of ambitious, African-American adolescents being raised in rural North Carolina.