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Clock is ticking as jilted bride seeks groom in 'Wedding Plan'

Michal is desperate to get married. She's 32, which feels ancient in her ultra-Orthodox Jewish world.

Oh, and she has a wedding in three weeks, and no groom.

That's the set-up for "The Wedding Plan," an entertaining, bittersweet Israeli romantic comedy that features the trials and tribulations of  Michal (Noa Koler), an independently minded mobile children's petting zoo operator who believes God will deliver a miracle in time for her wedding day.

Michal reveals what's driving her at the start of the film, when she tells Hulda, a kind of Jewish witch doctor, how much she craves to feel normalcy and society's acceptance, instead of being seen as an object of pity for being in her thirties and still single. She wants to be  loved, and to love someone else. And wanting to start a family, she acutely feels the march of time.

Hulda tells her if she wants it badly enough, she will get her wish.

When Gidi, her fiancee admits he doesn't love her, Michal's expresses confidence God will find her a groom anyway. She pushes forward, to the dismay of her family, friends and Hulda's son Shimi (Amos Tamam), the marriage hall owner.

Michal has a bountiful spirit, and while not traditionally beautiful possesses a glow that radiates. At the same time, her tempestuousness can be her own worst enemy.

With three weeks to go before the wedding, hurried, marriage matchmaker-arranged blind dates are held in restaurants, with a commitment to the Jewish faith Michal's only unshakable requirement. Leaving aside whether this is the best way to find a partner, the Hasidic men -- who include a man who refuses to look at her, and someone who's deaf and communicates through an interpreter -- have trouble grappling with Michal's penchant for honesty and frankness.

Her close friends include a sister in a tumultuous marriage, a woman in a wheelchair with ALS, and a woman whose long braided hair and non-conventional clothes are a far cry from how the ultra-Orthodox groom and dress.

With the clock ticking, Michal takes a quick trip to Ukraine to visit the tomb of revered Rebbe Nachman, founder of a sect of Hasidism. She discovers her wailing and anguished words are listened to on the other side by pop star Yoss (Oz Zehavi, the Israeli musician known as "Yossi"), who is smitten. The film's best exchanges occur here. Later, Yoss turns up at her house, where he's met by Michal's skepticism.

As the wedding day draws nearer, the prospect of a bride and no groom has all the makings of an embarrassing and grotesque affair, and no clear resolution.

The film -- originally released as "Through the Wall" -- is the second about the ultra-Orthodox community for American-Israeli writer-director Rama Burshtein, after "Fill The Void." While it helps to know something about that culture, it's not necessary to appreciate Michal's struggles, what drives her or the humor that often animates the film.


"The Wedding Plan"

3 stars (out of four)

Starring: Noa Koler, Dafi Alpern, Oz Zehavi, Amos Tamam

Director: Rama Burshtein

Running time: 110 minutes

Rating: PG for thematic elements.

The lowdown: An Orthodox Jewish woman has three weeks to find a groom and to be married after her fiancee bolted.

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