A low-budget indie from 2007, Arranged is undeniably well-intentioned, but it’s a lot more pleased with itself than I was pleased with it. The attempt at detailing the friendship between a young Jewish schoolteacher (Zoe Lister-Jones) and a young Muslim one (Francis Benhamou)—where the only thing they have in common, besides teaching, is that they’re both preparing to deal with arranged marriages—is interesting enough. But then it slowly dawns on you that the two women really have no personalities, interests or lives that extend beyond these things. What personality they evidence has more to do with the actresses than with the clunky writing or the workmanlike direction. And that’s enough to keep the movie afloat—but just barely.
Don’t get me wrong, Arranged is not a bad movie. It’s simply not as good or as important as it wants to be. While the approach to the friendship of these two very oddly matched young women is entertaining, the whole thing lacks depth. For a movie that wants to counter stereotypes, it sure doles them out in abundance whenever it isn’t dealing with the main characters, which I suspect is in part from a desire to be a “crowd pleaser.” I suppose it can be afforded some credit in that area since it won an “audience award” at the Berkshire International Film Festival in 2007. (Bear in mind, however, that “audience awards” more often than not go to feel-good movies of the gooey variety—and often have a lot to do with the filmmakers schmoozing the audience.)
In fact, the film reminds me of any number of film-festival entries I’ve seen. It’s a nice attempt. It’s well made, especially for its budget. The leads are very good. But it’s nothing to get excited about.