A movie about four very fat Israelis pushing each other around wearing something resembling underwear isn’t exactly a common love story.
But “A Matter of Size” is no Hugh Grant flick. The movie premiers in Pittsburgh as this year’s opening night showing at the Pittsburgh Jewish Israeli Film Festival.
“A Matter of Size” is a true rarity in the Israeli art scene. Not only is it a comedy, it is also a chick flick that makes a commentary on social mores without being overly dark and depressing, as many Israeli films are wont to be.
As the film opens we meet Herzl, an overweight man who can’t seem to shed the pounds despite his regular attendance at a Ramle diet club. In fact, he’s so bad at losing weight that the tactless owner of the club tells him not to come back.
Things go from bad to worse. Herzl loses his dining room job at a restaurant because, the owner says, the customers are complaining about his appearance.
Finally, Herzl’s mother, with whom the 35-year-old diet club reject lives, tells her son to go apply for a job at the local Japanese restaurant because “the food is disgusting” — and it might change his luck.
Once there, two life-changing things happen to Herzl: he meets Kitano, the owner of the bistro and a former sumo wrestling referee, and he begins to watch the sport. Herzl is fascinated—here’s an activity in which fat men are respected.
Before long, Herzl starts a sumo wrestling club in Ramle with four friends — all defectors from the diet club — including Zahava, a big, beautiful social worker for whom he has a crush.
After some prodding, Herzl persuades Kitano to train his friends for Israel’s first in the country sumo tournament, the winner of which will go on to a bigger competition in Japan.
What follows is a series of alternating hilarious and tearful moments as the four struggle with personal issues and their new found love for this unusual sport. That’s especially true for Herzl, who must decide whether to continue training after Kitano tells the group that women don’t participate in sumo wrestling. A hurt Zahava storms off forcing Herzl to choose between the woman he loves and the sport that gives him a badly needed dose of self-respect.
“A Matter of Size” isn’t a perfect movie. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that four Israelis would throw themselves so quickly into a sport so foreign to them, and one flashback scene involving Herzl as a little boy is really far fetched (but it’s still funny).
All flaws aside, “A Matter of Size” is an entertaining flick, a shot in the arm to anyone battling weight issues and a sympathetic look at everyday people who are in — or want to be in — relationships. Look out, “Biggest Loser!” You have some kosher competition.
Want to go?
What: “A Matter of Size”
When: Thursday, March 4, 7 p.m.
Where: SouthSide Works Cinema
(Lee Chottiner can be firstname.lastname@example.org.)