The Arty Semite

Friday Film: Make a Choice, Any Choice

By Schuyler Velasco

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Image courtesy of Dragoman Films

“Je T’aime, I Love You Terminal,” screening this month at the Detroit Jewish Film Festival, is a cautionary tale about the dangers of indecision — that when we’re faced with two options, choosing neither is often worse than choosing the wrong one.

To a lesser extent, the film is about that terrifying period of early adulthood, when you’re tasked with the unpleasant business of figuring out who you are as a person — romantically, professionally, all of it. No life phase is more full of such permanent choices, and as scary as they are, the real peril is in not making them.

Ben, the film’s hero, is a guy plagued by indecision. He’s made it into his 30s by avoiding all of the decisions adults need to make to become adults: He never picked a career, so he lives off of his parents. A cloying narrator tells us that Ben could never decide between boys and girls, but aside from the occasional gay-bashing joke, there’s little evidence of it. And now he can’t decide between two women.

The first is Hilary, an American girl he fell in love with while she was studying abroad in his native Tel Aviv (we don’t get to see their romance, but the narrator makes sure to tell us about it as still photographs of the couple flash across the screen). After a period of half-hearted, long distance courtship, he calls her up and asks, “Hey, Hilary, I was just wondering… do you want to get married?”

So he hops a flight to America, where he meets Girl Number Two, Emma. Emma has Zooey Deschanel bangs, a bubbly impulsiveness and, when it comes to love, a penchant for “never missing an opportunity, to miss an opportunity” (narrator). After Ben and Emma miss their connecting flights, they are stuck in Prague together for a day.

“Je T’aime I Love You Terminal” is at its best when these two are just tooling around Prague, shooting the breeze and not talking about anything very deep. Ben and Emma are cute together, in a grumpy sort of way. When she isn’t focused on being free-spirited and quirky, Emma has the film’s best moments, serious and otherwise. The “will they won’t they” tension reaches the appropriate rom-com fever pitch and the fact that we never really meet the other girl, Hilary, other than through her stupendously irritating outgoing voicemail greeting, makes us root for Emma even more.

Or we would, if Ben were a fish worth catching. It’s unclear why anyone would like this guy. In addition to having no job and highly questionable guitar skills, he has a mean streak that gets wider by the minute. He may or may not have stolen Hilary from one of his friends back in Tel Aviv; until Emma nags him about it, he doesn’t even think about getting Hilary an engagement ring. “Hilary, she’s not like that, he shrugs.”

“A girl can be a cold-hearted bitch who pees standing up and is good at computer games, but she still wants a ring,” Emma shoots back.

The whole reason for their romance was predicated on Ben’s lack of consideration in the first place: he didn’t miss his flight; he just sort of didn’t go so he could check out Emma. He’s ultimately an opportunity Emma would be better off missing, and that makes it a little hard to care.

Watch the trailer for ‘Je T’aime, I Love You Terminal’:


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