|Index||10 reviews in total|
I recently saw this at the 2008 Palm Springs International Film Festival where it was among the announced audience favorites at the end of the festival. It's a good story from Israeli director Ayelet Menahemi who co-wrote the screenplay along with Shemi Yarhin. It's a sweet little comedic drama about Miri (Mili Avital) who is a woman who is only in her late 30's but is already twice widowed. Mili works as a El Al flight attendant and lives with her sister Gila (Anat Waxman) who is having marriage problems with her husband Izzy (Alon Aboutboul). One day the apartment's Chinese housekeeper (Vicky Lyn) asks Miri if she can leave her six year old son (BoaQui Chen) for an hour and Miri agrees to watch him but the mother never returns. They can't communicate with the Chinese only speaking boy and they give him the nickname Noodle while they search for his mother and ultimately a way to reunite the mother and child through the help of Mati (Yiftach Klein) who is a family friend and former neighbor of Miri and Gila. The story is sometimes hard to believe but it's a good ride none the less and certainly a charming tale. Director Menahemi has had a very sporadic career in his 20 years as a director making only three documentaries, three narrative features and one short in all that time. With this, his third feature narrative, I would hope he is inspired enough by it's success to create more films. It won the Grand Jury Prize and Best Screenplay at the Montreal World Film Festival and I'm sure it's been a crowd pleaser at other festivals it's played besides Montral and Palm Springs. I would give this an 8.0 out of 10 and recommend it.
Isreal, which has certainly had it's share of quirky comedy's, now has yet another film to add to it's ever growing list of contenders for world cinema. Noodle is a cute,low key comedy about an woman in her late 30's, working for El Al airlines as an in flight attendant,who's life is thrown into a tizzy by a five year old Chinese boy,who has been left by his mother in her flat, while she promised to be back in an hour, only to disappear. What follows is the woman,trying to establish contact with the boy's mother, and realizing that she is going to be the unwilling babysitter of a young boy who speaks only Mandarin, and not a word of Hebrew. The boy is given the nick name Noodle, as they're not sure what his real name is. What I admired about this little film is that, although it does dwell in sappy sentimentality, it never lowers or cheapens itself to the level of a John Hughes film (in other words,it's not a smarmy sitcom,with young children who know seem to know more than adults do). A little bit of searching out may be in order to see this little gem.
What would you do if you were to find a child under your custody
through no choice of your own, but having it dropped onto your lap? And
to make things worse, you cannot communicate with the child because of
the lack of language skills both ways? Director Ayelet Menahemi weaved
a poignant and heartwarming tale about the bridging of differences and
culture, and at its core, a very human story about doing what's right,
and the innate goodness everyone possesses in a world without
Miri (Mili Avital) is a flight attendant with El Al (perhaps one of the most secure and safest airlines in the world) whose life turned upside down with her cleaning lady's son being left in her apartment and failing to return when responding to a phone call. Together with sister Gila (Anat Waxman) and Gila's estranged husband Izzy (Alon Abutbul), they try collectively to figure out exactly what to do with him, with embassies and the authorities being out of the question because of his complicated, illegal status, lest they be burdened with the guilt of his non-return to his mother in a blackbox, bureaucratic process.
In what would at first be confused resentment, nicknaming the child at first as "Mao", that emotion will soon turn into endearment and affection, given that "Mao" would become a proxy to the healing process that would in its own way iron out the vastly complex, dysfunctional relationships between almost everyone in the movie, with envious emotions, jilted ex-boyfriends, and personal tragedy all rolled into one, where it seemed that being in denial of their true emotions was the order of the day. Through the series of zany events experienced through carrying out their humanitarian effort, the characters soon discover their inner strength and courage to face their deficiencies.
It brings to mind that food will probably be one of the greatest levellers and ice-breakers, and in one scene where the child, now nicknamed "Noodle", would share his culture through the simple act of slurping, well, noodles, just demonstrates that. By then, gone is the abandoned boy fearful in a strange world, and in his place is now a confident, assured child that his temporal guardians would figure a way out for him to get home. And Chen BaoQi is a remarkable actor, being able to tug at your heartstrings without going over the top in milking his cute factor. Here's a natural in action, taking on deftly the many facets of his character in a full spectrum of emotions from despair to pure joy.
While the movie might seemed to have hinged heavily on Chen's wonderful performance, let's not forget the other major story arc of the two sisters Miri and Gila, and the host of supporting characters that play a huge part in fleshing out and making the entire movie so rich. In fact, I felt that it had so much going on, that it was quite amazing how director Ayelet Menahemi managed to put them all together without bloating the run time, or to have the sub plots overrun into a rampaging monster. Each character was carefully crafted to have their respective back stories, and you can't help but feel sympathetic for Miri as she locks her heart after being luckless with her love life, in having not 1 but 2 husbands killed in war, being childless and with an obvious growing attachment to the boy, where you know that in doing the right thing, she'll suffer from yet another broken heart from having a man (or boy in this case) walk away from her life. This pain again brought out wonderfully by Mili Avital's very understated acting.
Her school teacher sister Gila's life is equally tragic, as she grapples with a long secret, hiding it under an acerbic tongue and wry sense of humour, in always wanting to have the last word. It's quite common for people to try and mask their insecurities under a bold front, and Anat Waxman's performance here provided much tragic-comic relief in her interactions with the rest of the characters. Essentially the story's quite woman-centric with alpha-type females (or at least on the surface) triumphing over the pretty much wishy-washy male characters played by Alon Abutbul and Yiftach Klein, but it takes a collective effort of everyone to be able to pull off a daring stunt.
It's no wonder that the film had secured that many award nominations in the 2007 Israeli Film Academy, or that it won the Special Grand Prize of the Jury at the 2007 Montreal World Film Festival. Nothing beats having to witness characters grow with one another, in a touching drama where little moments speak volumes from the heart.
I enjoyed this film a lot more than most American films I have seen lately. Granted, the plot is somewhat absurd and based on improbable coincidences--but the characters are real. I have often found this true of Israeli films. We get the feeling that we are looking at a real slice of life, whereas in the typical American film we seem to be in some make-believe world. I don't know why American scriptwriters can't seem to create the same mood that their Israeli counterparts can.I especially liked the way the child's personality developed. The scene where he teaches the adults how to eat Chinese food is priceless. It's also refreshing to see a film about essentially decent people (except for the bureaucrats).
Noodle (2007) is an Israeli film directed and co-written by Ayelet
Menahemi. Mili Avital plays the elegant Miri Calderone, an El Al flight
attendant you has been twice widowed by war. Her life isn't empty, but
it's emotionally sterile. Her Chinese maid rushes out of the house one
day, and disappears. Miri and her sister find themselves caring for the
young Chinese son of the Chinese woman. (The boy, whom they call
"Noodle," is played well by BaoQi Chen.) He speaks no English and no
Hebrew, and neither of the sisters speak Chinese.
The results are predictable, but the film has unexpected depth. Neither Mili, nor her sister, nor her sister's estranged husband, are cardboard figures. Each has a story and each has a life. Some of the supporting cast, especially the woman who played the immigration officer, are excellent. The film is well edited and has good production values.
One aspect of the movie surprised me. It could have been set in any developed country, not just Israel. Nothing about the situation--other than the manner in which Miri lost her husbands-- made this a film stamped, "Made in Israel." Whether this is good news or bad news depends on your outlook.
This film will work well on DVD, although we saw it at the Dryden Theatre as part of the excellent Rochester Jewish Film Festival. It's worth seeing if you're in the mood for a solid movie that's more heartwarming than dramatic.
Okay, the movie suffers from several absurdities as the plot is forced forward; but no more absurdities than you generally find in an adventure movie. And it is an adventure movie, although the adventure is not about transporting a diamond across the treacherous Andes but about finding security for a stranded boy amid the frustrations of bureaucracy and the distractions of job and family. (One of the absurdities is that when necessary, a job such as gym teaching seems to pose no obstacle to scheduling or financing a quick plane ride across the world.) The usually glamorous Mili Avital and the usually super-cute Anat Waxman look as if they were willing to forgo a layer or two of make-up to look realistically middle-class. The boy actor whose believability is essential retains that believability while leaving no scene unstolen.
I certainly let the title of this film mislead me for quite some time.
Even after viewing the trailer, I still had absolutely no desire to
watch this flick, that was my first mistake.
My second mistake was Mili Avital. Based on some of her past films - many of which I could not sit through, I just didn't think she had the acting chops to pull off an interesting character. How wrong I was on both accounts. First of all, the trailer (as the case with many Israeli films) just does not do justice to this movie. From beginning to end, this movie is excellent. I commend the director Ayelet Menahemi for this quality production - from the direction to the pace of the movie and excellent all around cast.
But the real compliment belongs to Ayelet Menahemi for bringing out the realistic and raw talent of the films leading lady. In Ms Avital's prior films, she was always cast as the pretty girl. Many or rather most of those films were horrendous along with her performances. But not here, her performance was believable, honest, raw and pitch perfect. She was rightfully nominated for an Israeli Oscar (Ophir) but lost out to the highly dramatic Ronit Elkabetz. This one film changed my entire perception of Ms Avital and now I highly anticipate her next Israeli project.
The film has a charming atmosphere of everyday and "it could really happen" even though it certainly is a fairy tale and there are several almost impossible elements in the plot - security issues, how children are normally treated, and time discrepancies. The shots are well planned and acting is natural. Somehow the lighting always seems natural. I especially liked the quick conversations with Gila and her friends, and Gila's daughter's sababa-comments. Many scenes were fresh - not as predictable as you'd expect. As always, the behind scenes bonus material on the DVD is worth watching. This movie leaves you in a good mood!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Kid melodramas can have very different destinies - they can reach
(seldom) the sublime, and they can easily fall into cheap melodrama. It
is probably the most wide spread mistake of people doing such movies to
rely too much on the kid actors. These are usually good and catch the
attention as long as they are on screen, but unless they have the
talent and personality of a Shirley Temple or Dakota Fanning they
quickly fade into forgetting.
To their credit the makers of 'Noodle' did not make this mistake. Their Chinese kid-actor does his work, but is not made to be overwhelmingly cued, nor is this immigration light mode comedy completely based on him. On the contrary, the other principal characters in the story are quite interesting, especially the two sisters played by the Hollywood-stricken (but not very successful there) Miri Avital and by Anat Waxman, one of the best actress on Israeli screens and scenes nowadays.
Neither does the film completely avoid the flaws of the commercial Israeli cinema, and the story line although intriguing as a premise lacks somehow credibility, and cannot avoid a deus-ex-machina solution to the final climax. Overall however the film works even better than some of the recent light-hearted comedies I have seen coming from Hollywood or other established cinema imperia.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As other reviewers have mentioned it is about Miri, an El Al fight attendant, twice widowed, who suddenly finds herself with an abandoned Chinese boy who only speaks Chinese. Her actions at this point are unconvincing. She doesn't want to call the police, or anyone. Instead she calls him "Noodle" and tries to teach him her language. Only after a number of days does she think (with some help)to take him to someone in the Chinese community. It all gets worked out (of course) amidst the drama of her sister's difficulty with her husband, with the handsome Mati added to the mix. The second half of the film was a little more interesting, not giving anything away. But there was no chemistry at all between Miri and the Chinese boy who was supposed to be so adorable that she couldn't help but have a strong, emotional bond with him. The actress playing Miri gave a pedestrian,unemotional performance and the Chinese boy's performance was entirely by rote, understandable due his age and his obvious lack of acting experience.
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