Joanna Rothman is a board member for the Boston Jewish Film Festival and one of the founding bloggers of Singles Warehouse, the largest online dating magazine. She also has her own dating blog, SingleSassy.com. When she isn’t blogging or watching films, she works as director of development at Gateways: Access to Jewish Education.
Ethan mentally agonizes over the woman sitting next to him, disgusted with the way she consumes her lunch. She comes to sit next to him and quietly asks if he’d like to have sex.
No, I’m not describing a scene that I overheard in South Station. This is the opening scene of “Blumenthal,” one of 40-plus films airing over the next several weeks as part of the 25th Annual Boston Jewish Film Festival (BJFF).
This year, the BJFF is hosting a “festival within a festival” called “Fresh Flix,” designed for the 20- to 30-something crowd. Among this mini festival are two romantic comedies—“Blumenthal” and “One Small Hitch”—that I recommend.
We’ll come back to “Blumenthal” in a little bit, but let’s pan left to the film “One Small Hitch,” a delightfully sweet romantic comedy. Molly, a slightly neurotic but loveable 20-something, is off to LAX with her musician boyfriend, Lance, as they head to her mother’s wedding in Chicago. After learning that Lance is secretly married, she storms off to her gate and bumps into her brother’s best friend, Josh. Josh, having just broken up with his girlfriend because she wanted marriage (and he obviously didn’t!), is busy trying to pick up—with great promise—a woman at the airport bar. But he realizes Molly is a mess over her break-up and makes the oddly mature decision to comfort her and leave the supposedly “sure thing” behind.
Josh’s father is ill, and his dying wish is to see Josh settle down with a “nice girl.” Not wanting to disappoint his father, he and Molly attempt to convince everyone that they are engaged.
Josh comes from a Jewish family but Molly does not, and interfaith mix-ups ensue. Early in the film, Molly runs into her mom’s house with an upset stomach. She said she ate too many of those “rugalaks.” Her mom’s fiancé attempts to correct her mispronunciation of “ruglack” and then calls them “rugalooks.” (They’re actually called “rugelach.”)
Of course, her illness is misinterpreted for morning sickness—she and Josh, after all, have told everyone that they are engaged. She quickly retorts, “I’m lactose intolerant.” Raise your hand if you, too, are lactose intolerant! (You can’t see it, but my hand is raised).
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but if you’re an avid rom-com viewer like me, you’ll be able to guess the ending fairly quickly. But it doesn’t matter; it’s sweet, romantic and a crowd-pleaser. Two thumbs up!
Let’s now return to Ethan in the film “Blumenthal.” When we last saw him, he was being propositioned in a coffee house.
Ethan is a neurotic, self-absorbed Jew dating Christina, not Jewish.
There are more interfaith mix-ups, of course. At one point, Ethan and Christina discuss the passing of his uncle, Harold Blumenthal, who is a famous playwright. Christina tells Ethan that she is going to send flowers to his father, but Ethan, in his usual condescending manner, asserts that is it not appropriate to send flowers to a shiva. Instead, she should send food.
His father and stepmother later receive a beautiful flower arrangement from Christina. Ethan complains that she did it to spite him, but his non-Jewish stepmother finds it to be lovely, particularly because “the fridge is stuffed!” I found this quite poignant. While Ethan was clinging to Jewish tradition, his ex-girlfriend was incorporating her own traditions to pay respect to Ethan’s uncle.
I’ve dated Ethan Blumenthal. OK, not the actual Ethan, since he is a character in an independent film. But I feel as if he was in my graduating class at Brandeis or went to summer camp with me. He’s slightly neurotic and self-absorbed, but beneath that, also loving and compassionate.
I encourage you to see both “Blumenthal” and “One Small Hitch” so you can compare how they differ and, to the core, what they really have in common—love, romance and the complexity of family. They each tell the story of complex protagonists and their process of personal and interpersonal struggles.
Saturday, Nov. 9, 9:15 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre
Thursday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m.
Arlington Capitol Theatre
See “One Small Hitch”:
Thursday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre
Sunday, Nov. 10, 4:15 p.m.
West Newton Cinema
Monday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m.
Hollywood Hits Theatre (Danvers)
Plan to be there? Be sure to say hello!
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