Flawless 2018 ****

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What would Pretty in Pink look like if Molly Ringwald had to sell a kidney to afford her prom dress? That’s the novel question posed by Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit in their film Flawless, which starts out like a John Hughes movie updated, then develops a dark side as the characters are faced with a modern dilemma undreamt of in 80’s teen cinema. While some may fear a bait and switch based on that synopsis, it’s to the credit of Flawless that it doesn’t duck out of any potential incongruity, but instead wears it front and centre. A witty script and a strong trans message also help make sure that Flawless should win over any doubters; it’s an original teen movie with a strong central idea that’s sure to be remade or at least ripped-off.

Eden (Strav Strashko) is a Jeruselem high-school pupil who is transitioning from male to female; she really just wants to be one of the girls who have all the fun. Eden teams up with Tigist (Netsanet Zenaneh Mekonnen) and Keshet (Noam Lugasy), both of whom have ideas about how to get exactly what they want from life. They hope to make some fast cash to make sure their prom goes well; a blog has brought attention from Keren (Assi Levy), who invites the girls to fly to Kiev to get breast augmentation surgery in return for their kidneys. This is, of course, illegal: that’s not something that bothers the girls, although Eden begs to differ. If your body isn’t how you want it, surely surgery is the answer? Or is there a limit on what is sensible to change?

Trans issues are important in Flawless, but they form an essential subplot to wider questions about bodies, identity and individuality. Eden can see that the girls are being exploited, but their desire to be what they want to be meshes with her own. Eden wants to be one of the girls, but is she going to go along with everything they say, even if their YOLO philosophy places them all in mortal danger?

Without spoiling the story, Flawless doesn’t just name-check issues, but explores them, and that makes it a cut above most teen movies. Barbed wit helps; ‘Where were you where God was handing out the boobs?’ ask the girls petulantly. ‘In the line for brains,’ is Eden’s tart riposte. The details feel modern and relevant; the girls snort Ritalin before exams, participate in silent discos, and generally live a life that’s ‘amazeballs’ on the surface but barely hides a dissatisfaction within.

Flawless is a bright, thoughtful teen film that ducks most clichés and find a fresh groove. The girls feel that they only live once, so why not? Eden is more developed in her thinking, but finds it hard to resist the crowd. The clash of energies makes for an insightful and educative look at modern youth; Flawless is a great example of what a teen movie should be.

Flawless is playing as part of the 23rd UK Jewish Film Festival, which will run from 6th – 21st November at 15 cinemas across London. A UK tour of festival highlights will run until 12th December 2019. See www. ukjewishfilm.org for details.

Exodus 1960 ***

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Like much of Otto Preminger’s work, his 1960 epic of Jewish empowerment, Exodus, has largely been consigned to the sidelines of cinematic history; long and serious, it’s a high-minded blockbuster that deals with the founding of the state of Israel. Paul Newman is agent Ari Ben Cannan, who steps up to the plate to take charge when a boatload of Jewish people is refused port by British authorities. Dalton Trumbo adapts Leon Uris’s book at a hefty 208 minute length, and although momentum is lost when the ship is parked around the halfway mark, it’s easy to see why Exodus is a key film in Jewish and Israeli culture; despite a hackneyed romantic subplot, there’s an underlying excitement about the political opportunities of a new state, and Preminger’s film is required viewing for anyone interested in exploring the various sides of the on-going conflict.

https://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Paul-Newman/dp/B07HS4VBX1/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=exodus&qid=1563359976&s=gateway&sr=8-1