A mismatched couple discovers that whatever can go wrong will go wrong during a family visit in this warm comedy.A mismatched couple discovers that whatever can go wrong will go wrong during a family visit in this warm comedy.A mismatched couple discovers that whatever can go wrong will go wrong during a family visit in this warm comedy.
Amidst the nonsense that happens when the prodigal daughter returns from a job in Spain to her Argentinian Jewish family with an older academic fiancé who happens to be almost as perfect a Palestinian as Sidney Poitier was a Negro, there are surprising moments of poignancy and truth.
The first refreshing element is that this secular, assimilated family who has changed their last name does not look or act like Jewish stereotypes - they don't seem any crazier than any other family. They are not rich (the father got demoted at his salesman job), though the film does gently mock the daughter's pretentious intellectual TV program like those we've seen in several French films lately. Her fierce sibling rivalry with her sexy single mother, belly-dancing sister has spark. The blind grandfather has a complicated Holocaust and Zionist past that contradicts stereotypes of Argentina as a Nazi haven, though it recalls the family in "Lost Embrace (El Abrazo partido)". The brother's effort to become Orthodox has become a common comic foil in films lately, though his subversive effort to teach his niece Hebrew is quite droll.
The second surprise is that heavy philosophical discussions are made both effectively personal and very funny. including a debate about atheism vs. fundamentalism and Spain's role vis a vis the Inquisition and Muslim Moors. The misunderstandings about his Israeli passport are geo-politically amusing, including his travel travails. When told his mother is from Nablus, her confused mother is surprised: "There must not be many Jews in Nablus." Even though we don't learn too much about him (other than that Guillermo Toledo of "Crimen ferpecto" is one sexy dancer), he becomes increasingly more human as he's caught in awkward situations during the course of the film, culminating in a hilarious, no holds barred "I'm not a racist!" lovers' quarrel about religion, lifestyle, history and politics.
The slapstick is mostly funny, particularly a traveling frozen and defrosted chicken soup. Perhaps lost in translation is a too long side odyssey the dazed father takes through the city streets, let alone a silly duck.
The score and klezmerish and Middle Eastern musical selections are marvelous, though used a bit too much to emphasize the slapstick, including "Havah Nagilah" too heavy-handedly in one scene. The setting is mostly limited to one apartment, with every inch used very effectively.
The subtitles are always legible, though the print released in the U.S. uses British spellings and quizzical slang, that may have something to do with the four country funding from Britain, Spain, Portugal and Argentina. As is usually frustrating with subtitled comedies, dialogues are put on screen before the punch line is spoken out loud.
- Jul 12, 2006