Karaoke: An Israeli Comedy About Obsession

Moshe Rosenthal made his feature directorial debut with the 2022 Israeli comedy, Karaoke, about a married couple obsessed with their neighbor.

Rosenthal uses the film as an opportunity to explore a number of themes. Among them are the Israeli middle class, marriage, masculinity, and the roles of both men and women in relationships. At the same time, he also uses the film to explore his own parents’ internal struggles.

Meir (Sason Gabay) and Tova (Rita Shukron) are comfortably living in semi-retirement in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. They are Sephardic and part of the upper-middle-class–Rosenthal isn’t seeking to say anything in particular about the middle class by choosing this setting. Rather, it helps in providing many tall white buildings in the background. They are soon in for a shock when former modeling agent Itsik Marziano (Lior Ashkenazi) moves into the building’s penthouse, making it something of a bachelor pad. He hosts regular Karaoke parties, which soon leads to Meir and Tova becoming obsessed. No, really. There’s something about Itsik that brings out their ambitions and desires, which had been repressed for quite some time. Meir starts doing new things with his hair clothing and opens up by singing at the parties. Itsik even helps Meir out with connections to make his acting dreams come true.

There are some LGBTQ undertones here. Itsik is almost certainly bisexual and dresses flamboyantly. One can see how filmmaker Moshe Rosenthal seeks to get this across in his use of camera framing. There’s a shot where Meir sneaks a peak of Itsik while the latter looks to be doing drugs with another guy in a bedroom. That’s not to say anything major about his sexuality because Itsik comes off as more of a narcissist through his behavior than anything else.

Karaoke took home four Ophir Awards in fourteen nominations back in 2022, including wins for both Sasson Gabay and Rita Shukrun’s performances. Both actors did marvelous work on screen especially with having to change due to their character arcs. Lior Ashkenazi, too–the film does not work without him. You can really see why he’s one of Israel’s most beloved actors, winning two Ophir Awards for Best Actor and another one for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, he does not add to the trophy collection with this film. It’s funny how Rosenthal looked for a Sasson Gabay-type initially without thinking of reaching out to the real guy. Once that happened, of course, it meant holding off on production until everyone was available.

Karaoke is a very different type of coming-of-age movie.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Moshe Rosenthal
CAST: Sasson Gabay, Lior Ashkenazi, and Rita Shukrun

Greenwich Entertainment released Karaoke in theaters on March 29, 2024. The film is now available on DVD. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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