You needn’t be an orthodox Jew to feel the insult to religion in this movie. It helps to keep in mind that its writer/director is Sebastian Lelio, the same man who gave us The Fantastic Woman, an Oscar winning film about a transgender woman, but in truth, this movie could have been endorsed by the LGBT movement or the prevailing secular progressive arm of liberal American politics. The plot is simple and revolves around a rebellious drop-out from the orthodox Jewish community in London, the daughter of a renowned rabbi who relocates to NY where she becomes a photographer of society’s fringe inhabitants. Played by Rachel Weisz, we immediately see that she’s a chain smoker - shorthand for cool bad girl - but she returns to London for the sudden death and funeral of her father. Though she presumably lived with her parents until she was a young adult, she shows little familiarity with or tolerance for the rigid customs of this community. This is seen immediately as she reaches out to touch her father’s designated successor, a bearded young rabbi who is not allowed to touch any women but his own wife. We discover early on that Ronit (Rachel) became persona non grata due to a previous lesbian liaison with Esti (Rachel McAdams) who is now the rebbetzin sporting a suitable wig and clothes.
These two do a lot of non-verbal sighing and murmuring as well as smoking and smooching on the streets and alleys where the tight-knit community can easily spot and recognize them. Making that even easier is the fact that they are the only good-looking women in the film as Allesandro Nivola as the young rabbi is the only decent looking man. The rest of the congregants are old fuddy-duddies or disdainful young matrons with unattractive wigs. If you want to see what real ultra-orthodox women look like, go to Saks or Lord & Taylor to see them buying expensive designer clothes while they push their newest baby in a first-rate stroller.
Eventually, we cut to a steamy indoor sex scene replete with nudity and welcome exchange of bodily fluids. This sexual climax will lead to another climax in which the sensitive young rabbi will come to some conclusions that will befuddle anyone at all familiar with the Jewish religion but will be instantly recognizable to anyone following the LGBT agenda or that of various contemporary congregations for whom liberal politics and non-denominational tikkun olam is the heart and soul of Judaism. If Mr. Lelio were making a movie about gays or Blacks, he would have surely paid more attention to authenticity, but since this is a movie about religious Jews who are presumed to be backward and in need of progressive enlightenment he allows himself the luxury of ignorance and bigotry. They both add to the shallow characterizations to make Disobedience one you can miss without hesitation. It’s a veritable shanda.
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