Film Reviews: The Other Woman, Matchmaker

FESTIVAL REVIEWS

Watch for Michael D. Reid's reviews of the Victoria Film Festival in the Arts section and at timescolonist.com/ entertainment

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THE OTHER WOMAN

Where: Empire Capitol 6

When: Saturday, 6: 45 p.m.

Rating: 2 1/2

Writer-director Don Roos unfortunately fails to live up to the promise of his dark, subversive romantic-comedy The Opposite of Sex with this uneven yet intermittently compelling vehicle for Natalie Portman.

Portman plays Emilia, the Manhattan homewrecker of the title whose grief over the death of her newborn is jeopardizing her marriage to her husband Jack (Scott Cohen), a handsome lawyer she met on the job while he was still married, and her relationship with her eight-yearold stepson (Charlie Tahan). This is one of those movies that is less satisfying than hoped for since it never exceeds the sum of its parts. It's not that it's lacking in virtues -Portman's persuasive performance as the damaged but self-absorbed and not particularly likable woman, Lisa Kudrow's blazing return to the screen as Jack's controlling ex-wife, an uptight obstetrician. It's just that they're not enough to overcome a slew of clichés, stereotypes, credibility issues and contrivances that undermine the narrative. It's worth noting that the film, which made its debut at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, was originally called Love and Other Pursuits, reflecting the title of Ayelet Waldman's 2006 novel on which it was based.

THE MATCHMAKER

Where: Empire Capitol 6

When: Today, 4 p.m., Sunday, 6: 45 p.m.

Rating: 3

Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher's flashback to a teenager's experiences working as an apprentice to a matchmaker in Haifa during the summer of 1968 succeeds on two levels -as a Middle East coming-of-age fable during a period of cultural change, and a rare view of Holocaust survivors in Israel learning to live and love again. Inspired by Amir Gutfreund's book When Heroes Fly, this crowd-pleaser is set in Haifa's underbelly -the Lower City by the docks, a district inhabited by smugglers, prostitutes and gamblers. It's where Yankel Bride (Adir Miller), a mysterious, good-hearted Holocaust survivor and matchmaker, fulfils his mission to share the redemptive power of love. As Nesher charts Yankel's friendship with young Arik (Tuval Shafir), the detective novel-loving teenager he hires to spy on potential clients to make sure they're worthy of his services, he interweaves the uncomfortable implication that if you survived the Holocaust you must have prostituted yourself or betrayed fellow Jews.

Add the arrival of a friend's beautiful, rebellious and freespirited cousin (Neta Porat) from America, putting raging hormones and a sudden awareness of free love into the mix, and the film becomes an even more eventful glimpse of Israel's encounter with the summer of love, and a fairly satisfying one at that.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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