Sunday, July 13, 2008

JELLYFISH

Jellyfish is an Israeli slice-of-life movie so harmless that it feels kinda creepy to say anything critical about it. It's a first feature, and for a first feature it's fine in terms of command, light humor, and breeziness in ricocheting between three plot pieces.

But what's lacking is a strong acknowledgment of setting. Unlike My Blueberry Nights, where Wong Kar-wai makes the skies of Brooklyn, Memphis, and Las Vegas as vivid as his women, Jellyfish stays too glued to its characters, not allowing the audience to bring in a visual context. This is evident when the characters move through the streets of Tel Aviv yet the camera stays planted on the actors in close-ups and medium shots.

Batya (the gorgeous Sarah Adler - it's only a matter of time before Hollywood comes calling...) is the center of the film. She's an unsure twentysomething constantly getting left behind by everyone around her: her boyfriend moves out; the landlord scutters down the stairs when she turns her back; her dad is a deadbeat playboy; a homeless child she takes in runs away. All of this has given Batya trust issues and driven her to accept that she doesn't "believe in development" when it comes to relationships.

Jellyfish's plot is rounded out by a just-married couple having to cancel their honeymoon plans due to a broken-ankle accident by the bride (they must now spend their post wedding days at a hotel full of annoying noises), and an immigrant Filipino nanny-nurse that struggles with the decision she made to leave her son back home while she makes money in Tel Aviv.

Co-director Etgar Keret is acclaimed and known for his short stories. Because of that, it makes sense that he and co-director/wife Shira Geffen may yet lack the cinematic instincts of telling a story through images versus ink and paper. Watching Jellyfish, it's as if Keret is a bit cautious and unsure of himself in a new medium. He clings to his characters (i.e. what he knows) in a effort to feel comfortable instead of trying new things. If anything, perhaps the experience was a humbling one for Keret & Geffen, and next time they'll come out lenses blazing.

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