Is This Comedy the Most Politically Incorrect Israeli Film of All Time?

Uri Klein
Uri Klein
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Gal Gadot and Oshri Cohen in a scene from “Kicking Out Shoshana.” We’ve seen it all before.
Uri Klein
Uri Klein

Kicking Out Shoshana Directed by Shay Kanot; written by Oded Rozen; with Oshri Cohen, Gal Gadot, Eli Finish, Mariano Idelman, Yossi Marshek, Einat Weitzman, Yaniv Biton, Rotem Keinan, Tzvi Shissel, Miki Kam, Angel Bonanni, Ami Smolartchik

There are two ways to look at Shay Kanot’s “Kicking Out Shoshana.” We might describe it as a lame romantic comedy with few laughs, a simple – even primitive – plot, and crudely crafted characters; a movie that, under its liberal exterior, is actually offensive to men, women, gays, lesbians, Arabs, religious people, and pretty much everyone else. Or we could say that “Kicking Out Shoshana” is so inarticulate, and was made with such elementary means, that to attack it with sharp critical tools is an act of severe disproportion – like using the kind of language with which you might analyze a Billy Wilder comedy in order to criticize some inferior comic skit.

If “Kicking Out Shoshana” manages to convey anything, it is that the people who made it had fun in the process. Good for them. But there’s also something galling about their enjoyment, which is self-indulgent, smug, even egocentric. Even if we could overlook the movie’s flaws in the name of this enjoyment, it’s not enough to make us respond to the result on the screen. The fun in question is that of a group of people who believe that their very collaboration is enough to delight the audience. After all, who among Israeli viewers doesn’t like Oshri Cohen, Eli Finish, Mariano Idelman and Yossi Marshek? Then we have Gal Gadot, who is about to become a major international star. But the actors, counting on their own popularity, do lazy work in the movie. They bring to “Kicking Out Shoshana” nothing that they haven’t done before somewhere else – and in most cases, much better.

The basic plot premise is utterly far-fetched. I’m sure that Kanot and his screenwriter, Oded Rozen, knew this and didn’t care; they probably thought there was something mischievous about such an implausible idea, and anyway, comedies don’t need to be believable. But that’s the thing, really: They do. They have to make even the implausible seem possible to us, and that is something “Kicking Out Shoshana” fails to achieve.

Ami Shoshan (Oshri Cohen) is a forward for the Bnei Yerushalayim soccer team (whose uniform colors clearly hint that it is meant to represent the real-life Beitar Yerushalayim). One day he sees Mirit (Gal Gadot) at the entrance to a club and tries to hit on her. What he does not know is that she apparently “belongs” to a criminal, “Kushi” Bukowza (Eli Finish), who does not allow other men to make contact with her – and certainly not in front of the paparazzi. We never quite figure out what kind of criminal Bukowza is; we’re told he’s menacing and successful, but we see no evidence of his activities. Does he belong to a crime family? Is he a solo operator? And what does he do, exactly, to qualify as a criminal? He is little more than ridiculous, and while ridiculous thugs can be scary in some cases, this is not one of them.

After Shoshan’s chance encounter with Mirit, which her boyfriend considers an affront to his male pride, Shoshan is beaten up, and Bukowza threatens to cut off one of his testicles. But Shoshan proposes that he be given what he calls an “educational punishment” instead, and Bukowza then has a brilliant idea: in three days’ time, Shoshan must hold a press conference and announce that he is a homosexual.

Shoshan, who is a celebrity, a superstar, the league’s 
highest scoring player, does not go to his manager or to the police; he doesn’t ask for protection. Instead, he does as Bukowza tells him, which brings an onslaught of homophobia and aggression from his fans and his teammates (one of whom, played by Angel Bonnani, says he now understands why Shoshan always wanted them to shower together).

Shoshan’s torments after coming out (in the movie, he is said to be the first soccer player in the world to do so; his case makes international headlines and even attracts a British reporter the movie then swiftly forgets) also trouble Mirit. She is not happy in her relationship with her boyfriend, and has her eye on Shoshan because, as she explains in the movie, he’s just super-hot.

Shoshan becomes an icon of the gay community, and under pressure from his greedy agent (Mariano Idelman) agrees to do a school lecture tour, since apparently giving talks to students is a lucrative business. He is accompanied on his lectures by Paz (Einat Weitzman), a caricature of a lesbian, who rejects any kind of definition based on sex or gender. Meanwhile, Bukowza continues to torture Shoshan, the latter’s encounters with Mirit repeat themselves monotonously, and it all ends at the Jerusalem gay pride parade, which is so sparsely peopled that you have to wonder whether the production ran out of money for extras.

If there is one truly unfortunate character in the movie, it is Mirit, whose portrayal of a woman controlled by her boyfriend but also eager to break free of him doesn’t allow the character to go anywhere. Gal Gadot’s blank-faced performance doesn’t help, either; she is nothing but window dressing, as suggested by the two shots in which cinematographer Ofer Inov’s camera glides up and down her long legs. Who does that anymore in a movie with any self-awareness and dignity?

But “Kicking Out Shoshana” is not the kind of film from which we can expect such values. As for Oshri Cohen in the lead role, it may be the part he’s playing or his own limitations as an actor (comedy does not seem to be his forte), but his performance lacks all charisma and shows the same arrogance and aggression as some of his other recent appearances.

“Kicking Out Shoshana” relies on a variety of devices that have already been put to much better use in other comedies about sexual identity – such as “Victor Victoria,” “La Cage aux Folles,” and “The Birdcage.” Pretty much everything Kanot’s movie tries to do was done better in some other comedy. If the movie has any redeeming virtue, it’s the effort to convey a certain kindness – evident, for example, in the (highly problematic) way it all but ignores the rampant homophobia and racism of the movie’s social setting. Then again, it isn’t really possible to be kind in a cinematic environment as flawed as this film. Even calling it a comedy seems like a stretch.