Romantic comedies are often damned with faint praise, as their plots seem obvious and predictable in hindsight, so we tend to forget how successfully they managed to fool and surprise us on first viewing. Even Sleepless In Seattle, generally regarded as one of the cheesiest films of the genre, succeeds in getting us to doubt the outcome, by having two characters that don’t even meet until the end of the film. Suzie Gold, however, makes no effort to surprise its audience, and consequently disappoints.
Summer Phoenix plays Suzie, a Jewish Princess with an overbearing family. Suzie and her girlfriends swoon over Anthony Silver (Iddo Goldberg), the perfect Jewish boy. However just as Anthony is starting to take an interest in her, Suzie falls in love with Darren (Leo Gregory), who is ideal for her in all respects bar one – he’s not Jewish. Suzie’s parents will be heartbroken if she marries her dream goy, which leaves her with a very tricky decision. Well, actually, it doesn’t, as her choice is never in doubt.
Suzie Gold might as well have been called Bridget Jones’ Big Fat Jewish Wedding And A Funeral, as it cuts and pastes from a number of romantic comedies without matching the charm of any of them. Like Bridget Jones, Suzie is a north Londoner despairing about her career and love life, but here the panic seems completely unjustified, as Suzie can clearly marry any man she chooses. Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, we’re treated to comic racial stereotypes and a selection of cultural rituals, yet here the jokes fall flat, and the Jewish context has no bearing on the central story.
Also, just like Four Weddings And A Funeral, there’s the death of a supporting character to kick off the third act. However, in that film the death was central to the plot, as it reminded Charles that life is short, and love can slip away forever if you neglect your opportunities. In Suzie Gold the death’s only, bizarre effect seems to be to remind Suzie how quaint Jewish ceremonies are.
Suzie Gold is the debut film from Ric Cantor, one of the writers of the Ali G TV series. As this background might suggest, the observational comedy is stronger than the narrative. The film’s best joke, in fact, is indebted to Ali G, as it features a teenage Jewish boy who thinks he’s a gangster rapper.
It feels like a debut too, with an obvious and overused soundtrack (do we really need Misty Blue to tell us that break-ups are sad?), and unconvincing shifts in tone. Summer Phoenix, and Stanley Townsend as her father, give strong performances, but the rest are sitcom-standard, and few of the characters are believable.
At one point, Darren gets upset after he and Suzie go to see Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. The idea is that he recognises a parallel with Sidney Poitier’s character, as he too is a victim of discrimination. Instead we find ourselves wondering why Suzie would take him to see this particular film. It’s flaws like this that sadly mark Suzie Gold out as a ‘Brit flick’ failure.