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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Review: Netflix’s ‘You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah’ is a Cliche But Endearing Look at Growing Up

The new movie authentically portrays the challenges of growing up with a heartwarming narrative, but it over-relies on familiar coming-of-age tropes.

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I grew up religiously watching coming-of-age movies. From classics like “The Breakfast Club” to more recent hits like “Lady Bird,” I believe that coming-of-age movies have a special power. These movies remind us of the universality of growing up by tackling diverse themes of family, friendship, romance and more. While the transition to adulthood is a personal process influenced by each teenager’s unique circumstances, the very concept of growing up transcends the boundaries of culture and religion: Growing up is hard, but you are not alone.

We are reminded of the shared nature of growing pains in the first scene of “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah.” The movie starts with Stacy Friedman played by Sunny Sandler — the movie’s 13-year-old protagonist — musing about her Bat Mitzvah, excitedly stating that “your Bat Mitzvah is the first day of your adult life, and everyone knows an iconic adult life hinges on how it starts.” She imagines throwing an extravagant New York City-themed Bat Mitzvah, complete with props of iconic New York landmarks, a food cart and a lot of shining lights.

As previewed by this opening scene, “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” tells the story of Stacy Friedman, a Jewish-American teen who longs for the perfect Bat Mitzvah with her best friend Lydia. However, in the days leading up to her Bat Mitzvah, Stacy and Lydia’s friendship is put to the test in a series of increasingly dramatic events involving floating period pads, crushes and the popular kids. Just days after Stacy’s failed attempt at impressing her longtime crush Andy Goldfarb, she sees Lydia kissing him — the ultimate betrayal to a 13-year-old girl. This creates a rift between them, leading Stacy to angrily, and hastily, declare to Lydia: “You’re so not invited to my Bat Mitzvah!” When Lydia begins dating Andy, Stacy retaliates by spreading rumors about Lydia. As things get heated between Lydia and Stacy, they sabotage each other in increasingly terrible ways. À la classic coming-of-age movie, Lydia and Stacy realize the futility of their spat by the end of the movie, make up and promise to never let a boy come between them again.

While the premise seems ridden with overused tropes, the movie’s focus on Stacy’s Jewish-American identity allows it to take a fresh, authentic and memorable approach. The relationship between spirituality and teenagehood is largely unexplored in Hollywood, despite the film “Hey God, It’s Me Margaret” released in April of 2023. It is refreshing to see a coming-of-age movie approach the topic with reverence while still keeping a light, upbeat tone.

At the same time, the movie’s emphasis on Jewish culture does not prevent it from being relatable and enjoyable to its non-Jewish viewers. Despite being a Muslim Indonesian, many parts of the movie — from Stacy’s petty comments at Lydia when fighting to Lydia and Stacy’s iMovie home videos — remind me of my own teenagehood. Watching this movie days before my 19th birthday felt especially funny, too. It plunged me into a bout of profound reflection — was I really like Stacy at 13? As I scratched through my brain, all signs pointed to yes. Boy crazy? Check. Prone to making hasty decisions? Check. Secretly still a fan of playing with slime? Check. Perhaps adolescence and girlhood are universal concepts that transcend cultural and religious boundaries — one that Stacy, a Jewish-American born and raised in New York, and I, an Indonesian Muslim born and raised halfway across the world in Jakarta, seem to share. 

Another striking part of the movie rests in its phenomenal casting. The Friedmans are played, for the most part, by the Sandlers — Stacy by Sunny Sandler, Ronnie by Sadie Sandler, Danny by Adam Sandler and Bree by Idina Menzel. Adam’s wife, Jackie Sandler, is also featured in the movie as Lydia’s eclectic mother, Gabi. Adam Sandler takes a step back in the movie, only serving as a supporting character, in order to give his daughters the spotlight. Despite this, some part of me wishes his character had more screen time, seeing as Danny’s interactions with Sunny were some of the movie’s comedic highlights. Sunny also shines bright in her role as Stacy, delivering her lines with the ease and confidence of an experienced actress. She breathes life into Stacy’s character, successfully portraying her as lovable, energetic and a little annoying — as all 13 year olds are.  

Watching this movie for the first time, I also thought to myself: “Woah, the 13-year-old characters actually look like they’re 13!” While this shouldn’t be a point of conflict, it often is.  Age-appropriate casting has somewhat become a rarity for Netflix, who has a disturbing tendency for fitting 30-year-olds in ill-fitting teenage clothing and plugging them in high school hallways, expecting that they had all their viewers fooled — I’m pretty sure no one thought that Darren Barnet, Paxton’s actor in “Never Have I Ever” is under 25, let alone 18. As such, this movie’s casting was a true breath of fresh air: They casted actors that are actually young enough to be in middle school, rather than those who are old enough to be in the throes of tax and utility payments. 

Initially, some parts of the movie’s dialogue felt awkward to me. But upon further reflection, I realized that it is accurate to how 13-year-olds would speak — or at least, that’s how it was when I was 13. Rather than dialogue, the movie’s main flaw comes from the pacing of its story and the eventual resolution of the main conflict. One second, we see Sunny at the peak of her anger, completely ready to end her friendship with Lydia. By the next second, we see Sunny in tears, regretful of all her actions — both intentional and unintentional — and ready to make amends with Lydia. Friendship break-ups are hard, and make-ups even more so. I wish the movie had spent more time exploring how living without Stacy had affected Lydia, and vice versa, in the interval between their break-up and make-up. This would have allowed the movie to give viewers insight into the real depth and genuineness of their friendship and to convince viewers as to why making up was the best option for both characters. “You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” is an endearing look into the many struggles of growing up, innovative in its focus but derivative with its tropes. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆