Art museum, art museum, make me a match

“The Matchmaker” takes on the coming-of-age genre from a unique angle.

“The Matchmaker” takes on the coming-of-age genre from a unique angle. Arik is a boy growing up in Haifa, one of Israel’s largest cities located in the northern part of the country. It’s the late ‘60s—youthful and western cultural influences are prevalent and collide with older generations, many of which carry with them firsthand experiences from the Holocaust. Arik is about to have a foot in both worlds.

An old friend of his father, Yankele Bride, gives Arik a job as his new “spy guy” for his business as a matchmaker. This fits perfectly with Arik’s fondness of detective novels. Bride has a knack for bringing potential lovers together and making lifelong pairings. With his skills as a sleuth, Arik provides insight into potential suitors and matches—spying on their activities when they aren’t trying to impress. His job is not just limited to spying; Arik also markets Bride’s services to those in need, such as his librarian friend.

Arik and Bride form a special bond, sharing a unique relationship as Bride passes down his tips and tricks along with a little wisdom.

Bride is a perfect salesman/hustler. He knows just what to say to sell himself and his services, boasting that he will get his clients what they “need,” not what they “want” or merely lust after. However, there is more to Bride than meets the eye. While matchmaking brings in some money, it may be more of a hobby for Bride, who we find manages multiple streams of income—some from smuggling and card games.

When Arik is not spying, he spends his time with his friends, including Benny. But the two boys’ friendship is about to get a bit uncomfortable as Tamara enters their lives. Moving into town straight from the hip ‘60s-era America, Tamara has a flare and a freedom to her, and thus to Arik and Benny, she’s also really hot. Both boys are taken with this new girl—awkward.

The sprit of free love has come to the shores of Israel, and Arik is growing up right in the midst of it. Yet this conflicts with the work Bride does, helping true love blossom between two lovers and setting them up for a loving life together.

“The Matchmaker” is a cute and humorous film, though presented in a straightforward and dry manner. While Arik’s coming-of-age tale is the foundation of the film, audiences are also presented with a few side stories, stemming mainly from Bride’s dealings—who he is setting up and introducing, how he helps them and his various side dealings.

Overall, the film succeeds in presenting its rather unique and dated take on a boy exiting his childhood and realizing the world through the eyes of a young teen. However, audiences shouldn’t expect the humor to be blatantly displayed or easily received. Most of what is conveyed is a feel-good cuteness set across the post-Holocaust culture of Israel. The film does give a sense of being drawn out. At only 118 minutes, it certainly isn’t a lengthy viewing. Yet, it does seem as if the story could have been conveyed more concisely with the essential aspects still intact.

“The Matchmaker “is screening as part of the 19th Annual Jewish Film Festival currently at the Northwest Film Center. ?