Directed By Sammi Cohen
Starring – Idina Menzel, Adam Sandler, Sunny Sandler
The Plot – Stacy (Sunny Sandler) and Lydia (Samantha Lorraine) are BFFs who’ve always dreamed about having epic Bat Mitzvahs. However, things start to go comically awry when a popular boy (Dylan Hoffman) and middle school drama threatens their friendship and their rite of passage.
Rated PG-13 for some crude/suggestive material, strong adult language and brief teen drinking.
Considering Netflix’s latest Sandler comedy is not a film that is aimed directly at my target demographic, it comes across as one of the biggest surprises of the year that this is a charmingly endearing and authentically accurate portrayal of teenage angst, crafting a coming-of-age narrative alongside a Jewish teen’s forthcoming Bat Mitzvah, which with it brings all of the dramtic weight of its planning. We’re so invested in the film because of the dynamic in friendship between Stacy and Lydia, which not only feels lived-in with realism because of the seamlessly accurate portrayals by Sunny Sandler and Samantha Lorraine, whose wide range of emotional impulses feed into the overriding anxiousness of teenage girls, but also because of the impeccable direction from Cohen, who supplants the engagement with a freshly expressive means of presentation that represents its youthful protagonists accordingly. Between an eclectic soundtrack that cleverly exposes vantage into the minds of its carefully guarded youthful protagonists, and exaggerated editing techniques harvesting a music video flare, Cohen attains a notoriety of personality that pays the uniqueness of its brand accordingly, landing this on the upper tier level of quality for Netflix productions, which often condemn these movie-of-the-week installments on arrival. The comedy here is effective without feeling obvious or meandering towards teenage audiences, instead centering on many humiliating experiences in both the dynamic between parents and their children, but also the complexities of trying to fit in, which offer a knowledgeable satisfaction from grown-ups who feel familiar with these questionable actions from the characters. Because of such, the script does a solid job of elevating the growing conflict between Stacy and Lydia, without feeling catered directly for the cinematic purposes, and while Stacy is definitely the provoker of the two, her measures of sabotage never feel entirely detrimental to the likeability of her character because of the humiliation that both of the leading youths exude effortlessly. Besides the impeccable work from first time actress Sunny Sandler and rising newcomer Samantha Lorraine, the film is aided immensely by scene-stealing instances by adult extras that round out a surprise behind every corner. Adam Sandler is of course along for the ride, and has transitioned wonderfully into the caringly compassionate father role, taking a utility role towards his duo of daughters, who prove his greatest lasting legacy towards an industry influence that has now lasted nearly thirty years. Besides him, Idina Menzel glows as the engine of this family that constantly keeps it driving, and Saturday Night Live’s Sarah Sherman constantly chews the scenery as a wacky Jewish studies teacher with her own creative methods towards teaching Jewish culture, while inflecting a jolt of much-needed energy and chaos to the proceedings. Lastly, while I did have issues with some of the transitions of the storytelling inside of the script, the pacing of the film helps to maintain urgency inside of the narrative, leaving little time for the 98 minute run time to catch up to the material. Part of this certainly lends itself to the evolving complexity in the aforementioned friendship between Stacy and Lydia, which is easy to invest in from the word go, but much more goes to the consistency of the editing, which refuses to allow the movie or its mood to muddle for too long, and instead emphasizes this as a comedy with heart, instead of a drama with moments of comedic levity.
Though nothing terribly traumatic to the appeal of the experience, the film and its various events of vulnerability are burdened by an enveloping predictability that sends its characters and their various predicaments down the slope of where you would expect them to go, frequently throughout. Perhaps it’s my experience with a library of Judy Blume films, but everything in this movie could be sniffed out in each scene, five minutes prior to the gag or revelation being surmized, giving that tedious sense of feeling two steps ahead of the movie, as I casually waited for it to catch up. In my opinion, the script would be wise to cast some unformulaic directions down its creative engine, particularly towards a sisterly dynamic (With Sunny’s real life sister Sadie), which could’ve helped input a knowledgeable grip on Stacy’s dilemma, while easing some of the pressure off of her in focus. Another thing that could’ve eased that pressure was a balance in depiction between Stacy and Lydia, which the latter goes abandoned by the film’s midway point, when the distancing takes shape. Though Stacy is the story’s protagonist, its inability to follow through on Lydia’s perspective throughout strangers surrounding her as friends, or insufferable humiliation at the hands of her former BFF, only undercuts the impact of the conflict, as well as the scope of those enveloped in it, which is unfortunate for the aforementioned Lorraine, who is undoubtedly one of the best performances in this entire movie.
“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” does travel through some familiar avenues of teenage coming-of-age exploration but attains notoriety in the depths of an imaginatively expressive direction and honest portrayal of teenage psychology and parenting, that make it one of the more entertaining engagements that Netflix has ever released. With two breakthrough performances by Sunny Sandler and Samantha Lorraine at the helm, the good times continuously roll in a film that offers something for everyone, making this one party you don’t want to miss.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+