Big Fat Romantic Comedy Revolves around Palestinian-Jewish Relationship
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the surprise hit of 2002, a hilarious, heartwarming comedy about love which blossoms in a relationship despite the cultural divide between Greeks and WASPs. Now, Only Human attempts to mine mirth from humorous moments in an even less likely liaison, one between a 28 year-old Jewish woman and a Palestinian professor about her own age.
Set in Madrid, the film transpires over the course of one very eventful evening, the night that popular TV talk show host Leni Dalinsky (Marian Aguilera) brings her new fiance’, Rafi (Guillermo Toldeo) home to “Meet the Parents.” The dysfunctional Dalinsky family is as nutty as they come, starting with Leni’s 19 year-old brother, David (Fernando Ramallo), an obsessive observer of kosher and other orthodox practices. Her nympho sister, Tania (Maria Botto), is just as compulsive, but about sex, and makes a pass at Rafi as soon as she can get him alone.
Their mother, Gloria (Norma Alejandro), isn’t much better, asking her future son-in-law whether he finds her attractive enough to sleep with. This question comes up because her husband, Ernesto (Mario Martin), is late arriving home from work, as usual, and she suspects that he’s been having an affair. Rounding out the kooky clan are Grandpa (Max Berliner), a senile old coot who wanders around the apartment with a loaded gun hunting for Arabs, and Paula (Alba Molinero), single-mom Tania’s disturbed, 6 year-old daughter who stuffs a pillow under her blouse, pretending to be pregnant. Only Human is one of those asinine sitcoms, ala Three’s Company, which relies on the perpetuation of a mistaken assumption which could easily be cleared up in one simple sentence. Here, the embarrassing fact that can’t be revealed is that Rafi is Muslim. The cover-up is further complicated by a lot of slapstick like when a block of frozen soup slips out of his hands, flies out the window, and conks Mr. Dalinsky in the head several stories below.
“I want to be with you, even if you’ve killed my father,” Leni whispers to her man. When the truth about his religious persuasion finally comes out, her mother and brother are mortified, but the movie is intent on driving home the message that intermarriage still might be the best way to quell the Middle East conflict, because mixed children will “bring peace.” Laced with plenty of funny moments, Only Human’s jokes come mostly at the expense of its cartoonish Jewish caricatures. But all is forgiven by the
time of the arrival of its happily-ever-after ending, which lifts its closing line (“Nobody’s perfect!”) from the comedy classic, Some Like It Hot (1959).
A rare, optimistic ray of hope about the prospects of Jewish-Muslim relations.
Very Good (3 stars)