Directed by: Sammi Cohen
Premise: A Jewish teenage girl (Sunny Sandler) prepares for her bat mitzvah party. In the lead up to the festivities she has a falling out with her best friend (Samantha Lorraine).
What Works: The core performances of You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah are quite good. Sunny Sandler and Samantha Lorraine are friends who are driven apart by the pressures of adolescence and both Sandler and Lorraine are promising actors. They play the parts convincingly and the actors and the story make us want to see them overcome their differences and maintain their friendship. As a story of young people, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah does not shy away from how gross adolescence can be. The film deals with various bodily functions and skin conditions that young people encounter for the first time and the film’s grossness gives it some credibility. You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is in its own way a spiritual film. Much like weddings and sweet sixteen parties, bat mitzvahs can be a gaudy nightmare in which materialism and social status overshadow the spiritual meaning. You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah points out that tension and the characters have to escape the self-absorption that’s overtaken the tradition. In that regard, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah recenters the tradition and acknowledges the way this ceremony is about the girl becoming part of her ethnic and faith community.
What Doesn’t: The bat mitzvah ceremony typically takes place around age twelve or thirteen. These kids look much older than that. This age disconnect is not unusual in Hollywood films about adolescence but You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah comes a few months after the film version of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and the Judy Blume adaptation presented a very similar story much better and with more credible teenagers. Also common in contemporary Hollywood films, the wealth of the families in this movie is outrageous. The filmmakers present these people as middle class but their lives are so affluent that it is distracting. The story works through a standard high school narrative that we’ve seen in a lot of other movies. The Jewish content gives it a unique angle but the movie ends on a grand gesture that resolves the conflict between the girls too easily. Sandler’s character doesn’t have to work for forgiveness. It’s all very pat and has the feel of a sitcom episode.
Disc extras: Available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is an average coming of age story. The moviemakers deserve credit for giving this film a specific cultural identity and exploring the spiritual and community aspects of this Jewish tradition. But the movie is hampered by sitcom storytelling.
Episode: #963 (September 3, 2023)