I don't have much of a sweet tooth. What I do have is a loud, demanding savory tooth that screams for fried potatoes 24/7. We recently got an air fryer, which has dangerously increased my ability to make French fries whenever the siren song of salty crispy goodness begins. But it's been several years since I've been able to celebrate Hanukkah with my Jewish friends and family, and I had somehow forgotten about the glorious magic of latkes. Some sour cream, some applesauce, and a golden mound of fried potato biscuits: that's the real reason for the season. This week I watched two Hanukkah movies that featured latkes heavily, and my google search history now includes "latke recipes," "latkes near me," and "can I eat latkes year-round."
Y'all, I loved this movie! The two leads had sweet chemistry, and Jakle in particular has an undeniably on-screen sparkle. Christy and Jonathan both seem to be normal, relatively sane people who treat each other with curiosity and respect, who are willing to apologize when they are wrong and be grateful when someone does something kind for them. This is the rarest of rom-com couples: I would bet these two actually stay together for the rest of their lives. I would bet that they could be found right now on the streets of Chicago, pushing a baby carriage decorated with reindeer and dreidels, on their way to get latkes and fruitcake. In a movie about two major religious holidays, they avoid discussing religion completely. It's all food and decorations and traditions. Which, honestly, is great. Those are the parts I like about holidays anyway. Michele recommended this to me when I first put out a call about holiday movies, and she didn't steer me wrong.
Menorah in the Middle:
Sarah (Lucy Devito) is in Paris with her boyfriend Chad (Cristian de la Fuente) when he proposes after just nine months of dating. She's worried that her family won't like him, and with good reason: Chad is both a frat bro douche AND a finance douche AND too-hot foreigner douche. (When they arrive, Chad insists on getting a hotel room, which the movie treats like an obvious red flag, but I have to side with Chad on this one. Lucy seemingly expects him to sleep with her on a twin bed, which is way more of a red flag IMO.) It's clear immediately that Lucy's family thinks Chad is a douche, and Lucy's neighbor and ex-boyfriend Ben (Jonah Platt) thinks Chad is a douche, and even Lucy seems to think Chad is a douche, but everyone is being very polite about it. It's not until he sabotages their effort to save the family bakery that Lucy sees the light...and the boy next door who's been waiting for her all along.
I have so many unanswered questions about this movie. Why is it called "Compass in the Middle" on IMDB? Who is there a town troubadour who sings multiple Randy Newman-esque songs that were clearly written for this movie, and why is he not credited? Why does the poster make the two leads look Middle Eastern? Why is the trailer not a trailer and just a scene from the movie? And not just any scene from the movie, but by the far the most unhinged scene, where the characters have a latke-and-Manischewitz bacchanalia and then Chad punches Sarah's dad and he has a heart attack? Are Lucy Devito's parents not helping her get good roles? Why is Sarah Silverman in this for five minutes? Did they specifically make Jonah Platt's character be named Ben to remind him that his brother is more famous than he is? Do people in Brazil name their children "Chad"?
This isn't a terrible movie, but it's not good enough to be good and it's not bad enough to be the best kind of bad. Maybe just have a party where you play dreidel and drink and eat fried potatoes, which sounds like a way better time than watching this movie.