(August 5, 2022 / JNS) The Israeli show “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” on Netflix gave offered a lot in its first iteration. Part II, which recently dropped, has seen the fine acting of Michael Aloni, Swell Ariel Or and Hila Saada Michael Gabriel Armoza, daughter Luna, and his wife, Roza. Part II begins strongly when Luna asks her boyfriend to propose to her and make an engagement ring out of wire. Set to be executed by the British, she thinks his life will be spared because an important British officer has been captured.
But as Part II goes on, some things become tiresome, and there are potential moments of great tension that are missed. Luna is to secretly take part in a dance competition in Tel Aviv. On that exact day, bombs are dropped on Tel Aviv. Why not see the fear in the characters’ eyes in Tel Aviv? Instead, we just see the family members in Jerusalem worrying about them. A potential suitor for Luna, Yehoram Shabat is never serious and when he is punched by David Franco (Israel Ogalb) it doesn’t have half the power it should have.
The segment with Jilda, who is a kind of witch, becomes too hokey to take seriously, as her solution to every problem is to put cow intestines on a person. At a moment when an awful lie is uncovered, Aloni should explode with rage or surprise, but instead, he acts like someone who accidentally put mayonnaise on his sandwich. He is a great actor, so this is the fault of either the script or the director.
Also, David goes to fight in the war, as the British drop leaflets telling them they have the same enemy in terms of the Nazis. Why not show us David fighting in war? It’s a big miss. Also, would a mother object so strongly to her son marrying a woman she doesn’t like that she would risk him dying in a war? Maybe, but it doesn’t play properly.
The romance between Luna and David is OK, as is how it seeps in that Jews are being killed in Poland and nobody is doing anything about it; it’s woven well into the fabric of the story. It brings great energy and light to the show, while Saada is downright evil. The character of her mother, Merkada (played by Irit Kaplan) becomes a bit annoying as she suddenly wants to fast and repent for her actions just because Jilda makes her eye bleed and has skin problems. Yeah, right.
The series is well-shot, and the character of Ephraim Siton, played by Tom Hagi is done well as we understand why he acted like a jerk and cheated on his bride-to-be the night before the wedding was supposed to go down. A big problem is that while viewers can suspend their belief and take in the fact that Gabriel married a woman he didn’t love, the pill that’s much tougher to swallow is that he suddenly became a fool in business and made the same error twice.
Also, we get that Gabriel is not a boxer, but can’t he put up any kind of physical fight? It seems that anyone can take him down with a few punches without him as much as clenching his fist. The show is still good and has a number of impressive moments. Luna and David realize that they want each other and don’t want anything to stay in the way. While it is dark, we see that Roza is jealous that her husband cares so much about their daughter and forgives her mistakes, and even tells her husband that his belt is not only for holding pants up. The reintegration of Rochel (Yuval Scharf) is flimsily done and doesn’t have the power that it should.
Itzik Cohen still provides much-needed comic relief as Avraham and is a pleasure to watch on screen.
‘All the characters make excuses for their actions’
The season could have been a few episodes shorter. The problem lies not in the actors but in the writing and pacing. We get set-ups and situations of possible tension, and then anti-climactic letdowns. The store Luna works out will be sold; soon, she’ll have no job. Oh no! But wait, it will be bought by a suitor of hers, Yehoram, so maybe it will work out after all. Her sister gets Mr. Block to change his mind about selling the store when she tells him that the buyer is rich, partly due to selling weapons to the Italians.
It would have been much more powerful to see mobs drop during a dance competition. All in all, Part II maintains the urgency in the first episode or so and then loses it. The characters are also less dynamic as Gabriel sits around waiting to get swindled, beaten up or have an affair with a woman from his past. He doesn’t seem to care that he’s doing something immoral. All the characters make excuses for their actions; for example, Victoria Franco (Mali Levi) sets the Armozas’ laundry on fire because she was drunk. Great excuse, even though it is really due to anger that Roza’s brother Efraim, cheated on her.
In one scene, Efraim promises to watch his sister’s baby but instead walks off to sleep with Victoria … what could happen to the baby? Roza, infuriated, drops a block of ice, and it shatters. Who cares? There’s no point to the scene. We already know that Efraim is a bad guy (though he heroically saved his sister in Part I), and when you give these red herrings, you condition the viewer for mediocrity. A scene where a young David almost blows his head off when he finds a gun is scripted in a much better fashion.
The writers should have cranked up the tension and made it seven episodes instead of 10. As a result, though the acting is still strong, the show’s power is diluted, and we don’t have a strong enough sense that the characters or the Holy Land are really in danger. After all, we only hear about the battle on the radio. But since this is a TV show and geared more for entertainment than reality, take it all in. Sit down and see it. It’s summer, after all.
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