The cinematic heavens opened last weekend for every woman who moved to New York City for the two L’s — love and labels – or has fantasized about doing so. Armed with Twizzlers and a clique of girlfriends, moviegoers sold out theaters to shed tears over the four women of Sex and the City’s make-believe heartbreaks and drool over the ensembles the women wear while their hearts are being broken.
Carrie Bradshaw and her crew might be a little misguided and materialistic, but Sex and the City can teach us one thing: relationships are an endless topic of eavesdrop-worthy conversation. There’s always more to say about other people’s love lives, and there are always ears eager to listen.
It’s a lesson Israeli director Amos Gitai has clearly learned well. In a city halfway across the world from SATC’s NYC, Gitai also tells a story of friendship, love and sex; but he focuses less on the purses, and more on the emotional baggage, his characters carry.
Set in Tel Aviv, Alila follows a bob-haired sexpot named Gabi who’s taken a strong, but emotionally unavailable man for a lover. Like the women in “Sex in the City,” Gabi goes shoe-shopping with her best friend, but Gabi and Mali’s conversations forgo the zingers to focus on candid soul searching. The questions the women raise are just as riveting as the brunch discussions found in SATC, but they handle the topics a little less flippantly. Gabi’s flaky love life, we realize, is a result of her own insecurities: deep down, she’s not the vixen she makes herself out to be.
(Imagine if Samantha Jones turned soft!)
It’s been said that the fifth friend in Sex and the City is the city itself. Similarly, Alila is full of careful cinematic decisions that showcase Tel Aviv as one of the many characters in Gitai’s panorama.
Just as Sex and the City teaches audiences the nuances of New York City culture — from what it means to live on Park Avenue to the necessity of looking down on Los Angeles — Alila captures the nuances of Tel Aviv life. The illegal Asian laborers, the Holocaust survivor living next door, and the drama surrounding the adolescent boy who’s afraid to serve in the army are unique to Israel’s social climate. And, as a backdrop to the plot’s twists and turns, subtle details, such as reports of violence playing on the radio in the background and the bustling colorful streets full of vendors seen from a car window, convey a sense of the general atmosphere of the city that shapes the lives of its characters.
Bottom line: If you’re in the mood for a movie about love, sex and friends in a dynamic city — that focuses a little less on looking fabulous and offers a little more Jewish than a convert named Charlotte — check out Alila.