Saturday, December 13, 2014

Zero Motivation

I must admit to being mildly surprised that this is only playing at Kendall Square right now; both the Coolidge and West Newton tend to be aggressive in booking movies pointed at the Jewish community, and I'd think an Israeli military comedy would fill the bill. Sure, the jokes aren't often specifically Israeli or Jewish - I think the only one or two that I didn't get involved how Zohar grew up in a kibbutz - but that would mostly be a plus, right?

Then again, it will probably show up at one or the other in a week or two, after its Kendall Square run. It looks like a one-week booking, but the theater's new, prettier, but less informative website doesn't say much on the subject.

Worth seeking out, though - it's a pretty funny movie. I'm not sure it's quite a M*A*S*H for a new generation/place (and I hope the Frank Burns reference in the review doesn't go over some readers' heads, because then I'm old), in part because anything it has to say about the absurdity of militarization in general is a bit blunted by how it avoids saying anything about the reason for that military presence at all. Despite some of what happens, it's a fairly light comedy set against a war whose ethics are far murkier for an American audience than they likely are for an Israeli one, and the occasional mentions that there's a war on rather than this taking place during a time of peace bring that home a bit.

Zero Motivation

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 December 2014 at Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

Having a crappy job or two is often a rite of passage for folks in their late teens and early twenties, and if you live in a country like Israel with mandatory military service, having that turn out to be your crappy job means that you've probably gotten pretty lucky, compared to how things could have turned out. The joke, of course, is that those for whom that is the case are too young and fortunate to realize it at the time, and that adds a nice little sting to the already quite funny Zero Motivation.

Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar (Dana Ivgy) are both doing their time in the army as office support on a fairly remote base in 2004, and they've become best friends during that assignment. Neither is particularly hard working, with Daffi enough of a ditz that her entire job is shredding papers, but she still craves a transfer to Tel Aviv and thinks she has it when replacement secretary Tehila (Yonit Tobi) gets off the bus with them after a weekend leave. Things do not go as planned, though - not for them and not for Rama (Shani Klein), the actually-committed officer in charge of the office, which also includes testy Russian Irena (Tamara Klingon) and Livnat (Heli Twito) & Liat (Meytal Gal), who have an annoying habit of singing in unison all day long.

Zero Motivation looks to be a sort of slacker comedy at first, and that probably describes the film as well as anything, although both the setting and the cast mark it as out of the ordinary for that genre. Talya Lavie breaks it into smaller (though connected) stories, rather than the string of funny anecdotes one might be expecting. Things also take surprisingly dark turns at a couple of points, showing that the insanity in this situation is not just fish-out-of-water absurdity, but something approaching genuine madness.

Full review at EFC.

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