The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch Movie Review

A young person’s sexual and/or emotional awakening is a standard narrative. What makes one stand out from another is not just the specific character detail, but the culture that this young person has grown up in.

The Awakening of Mottie Wolkenbruch (based on the book of the same name by Thomas Meyer)was released on Netflix in 2018. The title character, Mottie Woldenbruch (Joel Basman) is a young man from an Orthodox Jewish family. Having followed the prescribed life path so far, the next step is to get married and have children. While his mother, Judith (Inge Maux) is more than eager to see her son become a husband, Mottie is not so sure. His preference would be to have a say in his future wife. Things become more complicated when he becomes friends with a perceived shiska (a woman who is not Jewish), Laura (Noémie Schmidt). As their relationship grows, Mottie finds himself torn between his mother and Laura.

Warning: The video above is only partially in English. Subtleties may be required.

There are two ways to use cultural or religious stereotypes when developing characters. One way to use them as-is and not give these people room to grow. The second is to use specific traits or personal history as a baseline and use that as an opportunity to expand someone’s full humanity, warts, and all.

Having never read the book, I can only speak of what I saw. To be perfectly frank, after sitting through all of 30 minutes, I had to turn it off. I could have waited until next year to write about it on a Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday post, but I could not wait until 2023. This movie is beyond bad. The book’s author (who is also the screenwriter) doesn’t even try to break away from Jewish stereotypes. The mother is overbearing, Laura is the shiska goddess and Motti has no redeeming value as our protagonist.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely not.

The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch is available for streaming on Netflix.


Throwback Thursday: Meet the Fockers (2004)

Meeting one’s potential or future in-laws can be a harrowing experience. You want to be yourself, but you also want to prove that you are the right person for their child.

The 2004 film, Meet the Fockers is the sequel to Meet the Parents (2000). Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are engaged. Now that they have cleared the hurdle of her parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner), the next step is his parents. Compared to the straight laced, middle of the road Byrnes, Bernie and Rozalin Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) are very out there. Can these two very different set of parents find a middle ground and ensure that their children become Mr. and Mrs.?

Like it’s predecessor, this film is a satire. The comedy comes from the fact that the Fockers are a complete 180 from the Byrnes. My problem is that while it is funny, it relies a little too heavily on Jewish stereotypes when it comes to Hoffman’s and Streisand’s characters. While the cast is top notch, the script does not match the on-screen talent.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

Bernie Madoff-May You Be Forgotten

When a person dies, the Jewish response is the following: “may their memory be a blessing”.

Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi schemer who stole millions from his clients a dozen years ago, passed away yesterday at the age of 82.

I don’t normally pay attention to what is happening on Wall Street. It’s never been my thing. But I do pay attention when someone of Madoff’s stature re-emphasizes the stereotype about Jews and money. The anti-Semites make up enough lies about us, the last thing we need is validation of those falsehoods via real world examples.

I also pay attention when the economy tanks and there are more people looking for work than jobs needing to be filled. The revelation of what he did added salt to the wound of the Great Recession, creating more uncertainty and stress for those affected by his greed and selfishness.

I would normally say than when a co-religionist of mine passes, that their memory should be a blessing. I cannot say that about Madoff. I can only say that may he be forgotten.

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