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Movie Review

A Matter of Size

A pound-for-pound pleasure

In “A Matter of Size,’’ four Israeli friends become amateur sumo wrestlers. In “A Matter of Size,’’ four Israeli friends become amateur sumo wrestlers. (Menemsha Films)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / March 19, 2010

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In “A Matter of Size,’’ four Israeli friends of a certain weight become amateur sumo wrestlers. Lightly directed by Erez Tadmor and Sharon Maymon from a script Maymon wrote with Danny Cohen-Solal, this is a sweet, enjoyable — if limited and episodic — “when life gives you lemons’’ sort of a movie. The lemon in this case is a body-mass index that would make Richard Simmons bleat. In the last decade or so, weight has become another politicized identity. So it’s a not-insignificant achievement that these guys don’t show up in the last five minutes looking like Adrien Brody.

Demoted from his job as a cook because of his size, Herzl (Itzik Cohen) starts dishwashing at a Japanese restaurant in Ramla whose grizzled owner (Togo Igawa) used to coach sumo. Obviously, the old man wants nothing to do with coaching a bunch of slumping Israelis. Herzl still lives with his nagging mother (Levana Finkelstein). Macho Aharon (Dvir Benedek) treats his wife like — well, he doesn’t treat her at all. Sami (Shmulik Cohen) works for the local news station. Gidi (Alon Dahan) is a closet case who finds the one hot man in Ramla who loves bears (Gidi also discovers what a bear is).

Things with these folks proceed predictably enough. Herzl and Aharon have a real chip on their shoulder about their weight (Aharon learns that people don’t enjoy him because he can be a jerk, not because he’s fat). We’re meant to like these men, and we do, more or less, but they’ve been simplified for easy digestion.

Surprisingly, the most complicated character is Herzl’s new girlfriend, Zehava (Irit Kaplan). She’s as big as he is, but she’s beautiful. She might even know it, but her self-image is fitful. Her relationship with Herzl is prom ising. But she knows that he’s a desperate, mediocre boyfriend, and that his mother disapproves of her. So to the dismay of the shrew who runs Zehava’s diet club, she gradually starts eating to cope, and the sadness in Kaplan’s face breaks your heart. Who hasn’t been there, hunched over a plate of something he or she will regret in 20 minutes?

By the movie’s standards, things start looking up for her. I just didn’t feel that great about her choices. She gets her self-esteem back. But will it last? Does she know she has other options? This is the one character whose feelings mattered to me. Forget what Herzl’s mother thinks about Zehava. She can do better.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

A MATTER OF SIZE

Directed by: Erez Tadmor

and Sharon Maymon

Written by: Maymon

and Danny Cohen-Solal

Starring: Itzik Cohen,

Dvir Benedek, Shmulik Cohen, Alon Dahan, Irit Kaplan,

and Levana Finkelstein

At: West Newton Cinema and the Stuart Street Playhouse

Running time: 90 minutes

Unrated

In Hebrew, with subtitles

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