A callow young dude with a Peter Pan complex rules the roost in “Wisdom of the Pretzel,” Ilan Heitner’s alternately amusing and irritating adaptation of his best-selling Israeli novel. Perhaps the film’s most fascinating aspect is how — like the novel — it speaks to Israeli young people’s search for identity in a fast-changing country, while presenting to outsiders a look at a culture torn between just wanting to have fun and being embroiled in war. Heitner’s filmmaking inexperience undermines his best intentions, though, and decidedly mixed results will prevent pic’s hit status locally from being a solid theatrical export.
At first glance, the character of Golan (Guy Loel) appears to be an ingenious narrative means to get inside the world of hip Tel Aviv, with its legions of great-looking guys and gals out for long evenings of Rabelaisian partying, drinking and sex. Golan even proves to be an especially entertaining narrator, pondering such half-serious questions as “would falling in love with an ugly woman mean I’m mature?” But, with no clue what to do his life, he’s about to receive some unpleasant guidelines.
A date with fetching Dikla (Osnat Hakim, who deserves her own movie), just back from some years working in Gotham, is only mildly comic, establishing the film’s ensuing awkwardness of how to maximize the amusement of Golan’s adventures. Golan feels the traditional family pressures to get a job to support himself, but only during a brief, absurd sequence showing a “job-testing” session involving Lego building blocks does Heitner inventively address this side of his hero’s dilemmas.
Golan is prime material for being strung along by a smart, sexy woman like Dikla, and she toys with him. But the comedy wears thin through repetition, and an odd and morose turn in the narrative’s third section — one that utterly violates Golan’s true nature –contrives to set up a tragic and war-related denouement.
Curiously, given that he’s adapting his own tome, Heitner has more problems in the storytelling than he does with his actors, especially Loel and Hakim, who work up a terrific friction with each other. Pic provides a wide-ranging and fascinating tour through several Tel Avivs — the one that singles haunt, various housing complexes, the corporate jungle — and even a pleasant side-trip to beaches on the Sinai coast. Vid-to-film transfer is mediocre. Title’s reference comes off as an opaquely inside joke.