Film Review – You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah
The title says it all, doesn’t it? You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah (2023) is not only an examination of a specific Jewish tradition, it also covers the ups and downs of a kid quickly coming of age. The transition is not an easy one. A changing body, new responsibilities, the push and pull of hanging out with your friends and doing adult things, etc. The ordeal is a balancing act many of us (if not all) have had trouble with. Sometimes little things can have the urgency of a life or death situation, other times you feel like no one understands you. I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing moments and awkward situations. The best you can do is brush them off and move on, but try telling that to a teenager.
The film operates as a means for Adam Sandler to pay tribute to his faith and family. Along with playing a supporting role, Sandler brings along his wife Jackie and daughters Sunny and Sadie in key parts. Sunny stars as Stacy, a middle school teenager looking forward to her upcoming Bat Mitzvah celebration. As she explains in voiceover, she has been anticipating this her entire young life. Stacy’s best friend Lydia (Samantha Lorraine) will also be celebrating her Bat Mitzvah around the same time. While going through the Jewish rituals – like reading from the Torah – is important, Stacy and Lydia are far more concerned with the after party – going so far as planning out their themes well in advance. To them, a Bat Mitzvah is the official moment they become grown, setting the stage for the rest of their lives.
Director Sammi Cohen and screenwriter Alison Peck (adapting the book by Fiona Rosenbloom) structure Stacy’s arc in a bouncy, high energy fashion. The pacing moves fast and free, with Ben Hardwicke’s cinematography supplying a bright and saturated color palette. We often dive right into Stacy’s point of view to see the world from her perspective. The approach shows us how every aspect of a teen’s life carries equal weight. For Stacy, being able to wear high heels, impressing her friends, getting along with “cool” kids, grabbing the attention of boys, and having an epic party are all major concerns. Some of these bits have funny payoffs. Stacy’s mom (Idina Menzel) warns her that she can only wear heels for a few minutes before her feet hurt. After trying in vain, Stacy quickly substitutes them for comfortable sneakers.
Of course, the way a teen’s emotional state fluctuates at the drop of a hat can also cause high drama. That is the central point of tension. Stacy has a crush on Andy (Dylan Hoffman), a popular boy in school. However, things get complicated when she catches Andy and Lydia kissing at a party. This event tosses Stacy into a whirlwind, putting everything she has meticulously planned in jeopardy. The bulk of the runtime has Stacy dealing with these new feelings. The result is a mixture of highs and lows, victories and regrets, cruelty and self-reflection. Will she be able to repair her relationship with Lydia, win Andy, and still pull off the biggest party of her life? Oh, the suspense!
The entire cast play off one another with natural chemistry. That’s probably due to the fact that many of them are related in real life. Sadie Sadler plays – unsurprisingly – Stacy’s older sister Ronnie. Sadie gives the character a dry sense of humor. Ronnie is supportive of her younger sibling, but isn’t afraid to drop a sarcastic line while doing so. As Stacy and Ronnie’s dad, Adam Sandler fits into the role like a glove, basically putting on a persona that – I’m sure – isn’t too much of a stretch. But the highlight is the relationship between Stacy and Lydia. Sunny Sadler and Samantha Lorraine handle their respective parts like seasoned pros, navigating the wide emotional ranges with ease. When they hop up and down with excitement, we believe them. When they confront each other during an argument, their words cut deeply. The entire narrative is hinged on us believing in Stacy and Lydia’s connection. Sadler and Lorraine pull this off successfully – making us want to see where their characters end up.
Where the film isn’t as effective is in the religious elements. Given that this is billed as a comedy, having a deep theological discussion of Judaism is not a requirement. However, since the premise is so culturally specific, glossing over it is a missed opportunity. In one key scene, Stacy’s teacher, Rabbi Rebecca (Sarah Sherman) is presented with a host of questions regarding the nature of God. Instead of thoughtfully addressing those concerns, she deflects with a song and dance routine. Stacy will occasionally have conversations with the Almighty in voiceover, but they remain on a surface level. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023) has the exact same set up, but does a better job of presenting spirituality in an insightful manner. Here, we don’t get a sense of how Stacy’s Jewish upbringing informs her everyday life – it just kind of exists in the background.
Despite its shortcomings, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is a fun and entertaining tale of a person wanting to grow up and realizing what that entails. It’s funny in the right places, dramatic in the appropriate spots, and contains just enough gravity to instill important life lessons. Adam Sandler once again displays a late career surge of interesting projects, this time bringing his family along for the ride – even letting them take the spotlight.