Kiss Me Before It Blows Up (2020)

Kiss Me Before It Blows Up
Director: Shirel Peleg
Writer: Shirel Peleg
Cast: Moran Rosenblatt, Luise Wolfram, Rivka Michaeli, Juliane Köhler, Bernhard Schütz, Irit Kaplan, Salim Dau, Eyal Shikratzi, Aviv Pinkas, John Carroll Lynch
Seen on: 23.5.2021

Shira (Moran Rosenblatt) is just about to move in with her girlfriend Maria (Luise Wolfram). Shira having long been out and proud, her family doesn’t have an issue with Maria being a woman, but they struggle much more with the facts that a) Maria is not Jewish and b) she is German. Especially Shira’s revered grandmother Berta (Rivka Michaeli) doesn’t handle the news very well – much to Shira’s surprise because she was sure that Berta would understand as she is in love with a Palestinian man, Ibrahim (Salim Dau), herself. When Maria’s parents announce a visit, the chaos becomes even bigger.

More often than not, culture clash comedies are more cringeworthy than anything else, a regurgitation of stereotypes instead of their subversion. I found Kiss Me Before it Blows Up (unfortunately named Kiss Me Kosher in German) a welcome change from that. Now it might be that I saw it with rose-tinted glasses because it was the first cinema visit for me since November 1, 2020 (202 days without cinema, I cry), but I thought it was entertaining and very well observed.

The film poster showing Shira (Maron Rosenblatt) and Maria (Luise Wolfram) sitting on a couch, Maria's legs across Shira's lap and Shira stroking Maria's hair.

Given the current events in Palestine and Israel, Kiss Me Before It Blows Up is extremely timely. It definitely takes the conflict on head-on, with differing positions within Shira’s family: her father (John Carroll Lynch) an USAmerican settler and her sister (Aviv Pinkas) currently serving the IDF decidedly zionist, while Shira herself is more pro-Palestine. Maria and her family as outsiders see things differently again, with Maria’s mother (Juliane Köhler) almost hysterical about it. And in all of that, Berta who is obviously interested in Ibrahim (and vice versa), but who can’t bring herself to admit it, let alone act on it (it is hinted at that she lives in the house that used to be Ibrahim’s to make matters even more complicated). This range of opinions allows for complexity, while not shying away from critcizing Israeli politics.

In the end, interpersonal peace is achieved – but as the last scene shows, romantic love doesn’t solve a deep-rooted conflict. It would be nice to think that the Israel-Palestine conflict could be made to disappear one wedding at a time, and often that is what culture clash comedies insinuate. But Kiss Me Before It Blows Up obliterates that hope entirely – and I liked it.

Shira (Maron Rosenblatt) leaning in to kiss Maria (Luise Wolfram).

But actually, the Israel-Palestine conflict is more of a subplot here. The more central cultural tension is that between (Christian) Germans and (Israeli) Jews. The way Maria’s family dances around the topic, considering it long over and done with, as if it doesn’t concern them anymore (while also feeling guilty about it) clashes with the way World War II isn’t that far away for Shira and her family, and they are still very much affected by it. Here, too, the film has a sharp eye for positions. That Shira and Maria are queer takes an absolute backseat to the cultural issues (though they don’t pretend that there is no homomisia whatsoever).

Those are all heavy topics, but the film is not. It’s funny and entertaining and light, also thanks to Rosenblatt’s great energy and her excellent chemistry with Wolfram (who had the calmer role). It was a little irritating that the German dub that I saw didn’t find a way to distinguish between people talking Hebrew, Arab, German or English, leaving me confused sometimes who is saying what in what language which feels especially ironic given the film’s topic. But other than that, I really enjoyed the film.

Shira (Moran Rosenblatt) talking to her grandmother Berta (Rivka Michaeli).

Summarizing: very good.

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