WORKING WOMAN, directed by Michal Aviad, pushed this reviewer’s buttons – pushed them like few movies have in recent memory. And the ending threw this reviewer for an astonishing loop. It was as if he had been methodically and inexorably pushed to the edge of his seat for most of the movie by an irresistible force then coming to a stunning ending, causing him to experience visceral sensations that one would expect from an action-adventure movie with jaw dropping special effects. Needless to say, WORKING WOMAN is sublime cinematic drama that left this reviewer in awe. He didn’t just see this movie, he felt it for 127 minutes.
Verisimilitude, from the tiniest details of normal conversation and scenes of day-to-day family domesticity and just a normal day at the office to the clearly dramatic scenes, was arresting. Made in Israel, yes; a foreign film, yes, but the bravura story telling and moviemaking will be for many audiences a 127-minute-experience transcending boundaries of race, class, gender, ethnicity and culture, making the film irresistible watching for audiences wherever they are on this earth.
WORKING WOMAN is publicized as a story about the sexual harassment of a working Israeli wife, Orna, played superbly by Liron Ben-Shlush. She is helping her husband, played smartly by Oshri Cohen, who recently opened a restaurant, to pay bills as well as support him as he faces the kind of challenges awaiting small business owners. And they are raising two young daughters.
The sexual harassment thematic – brutal and wrenching – was the tip of an iceberg for this reviewer, however. Underneath was Director Aviad’s pulsing matrix of the familial, communal, personal, social, economic and political forces and influences that contribute to the subjugation of a woman, with sexual harassment, sexual violence, being the most vile short of murder.
Aviad’s WORKING WOMAN exemplifies that grand art of filmmaking that can capture the accents of psychology, social psychology, sociology and political science to tell a complex story reflecting the realities of real life but minus any heavy, pedagogical baggage of a moralizing, pontificating treatise. She is a feminist and feminism is richly reflected in her works.
In part II of this review, selected comments of the director add clarification for the oohs and aahs of this writer who was worried about spoilers showing up in the review. Below is a visual tease, however, that this writer couldn’t resist including. Check out the picture. It says so-ooo much about Orna, played by Liron Ben-Shlush, and her roles as mother, wife-lover to her husband, a working woman and the principal caretaker of their kids. She makes things succeed at home just as she does on her job – all being sabotaged by her boss.
The movie, with subtitles, was made in Israel but the setting could easily have been any working class neighborhood here or some other country in the world. I want to get something straight regarding subtitles because no one should pass on seeing this movie because it’s in Hebrew with English subtitles. When subtitles work, of course, I don’t feel I’m missing a lot watching a non-English speaking film with characters whose cultures and traditions are different from mine. [I admit there are times I’m enjoying movies even as I feel I’m missing nuances and subtleties.] None of those concerns for me in this movie.
When it became clear that I had been pushed and was being pushed to the edge of my seat, I braced for gut wrenching pathos. What else could there be? I wouldn’t have been upset if Orna, at the end, had thrown her boss, Benny, played superbly by veteran actor Menashe Noy, off the 27th floor of his super high rise Lilly Beach luxury building whose lucrative success is the result of her efforts. Benny was her former base commander in the Israeli Defense Forces, so I imagined she had training in hand-to-hand combat and that she knew how to handle a weapon.
Nor would I have been upset with Benny being ripped apart by an Israeli Jericho 941 semi-automatic pistol. Or a Glock 17 or Glock 19, standard Israeli military issues according to my cursory research.
The ending: I stared in amazement and watched in awe. I’ve probably already have written too much – don’t want to dull the incredible suspense leading to the climax – but in Part II I can at least describe Director Aviad’s dynamic for powerful movie making – and endings.
Gregg W. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org