Adam Sandler, the Jewish comedy legend, takes a step back in his latest film, “You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah.” Instead, the spotlight shines on his 14-year-old daughter, Sunny Sandler.
The film, which premiered on Netflix on August 25, adapts Amanda Stern’s 2005 novel (written under the pseudonym, Fiona Rosenbloom). It delves into the story of best friends Stacy Friedman and Lydia Rodriguez Katz, who find their bond strained when a boy and their preparations for their bat mitzvahs create friction.
Adam Sandler stars as his daughter’s father in the movie, alongside Sadie Sandler also playing her real-life father’s daughter. Idina Menzel shines as Sandler’s wife in the film, while his real-life spouse, Jackie Sandler, plays the role of Lydia’s mother.
In a conversation with Unpacked, film producer Elysa Koplovitz Dutton spoke about her collaboration with the Sandler family and the reasons why Alloy Entertainment and Happy Madison Productions decided to bring this young adult novel to the big screen.
Dutton was drawn to the relatability of “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah”
The narrative of “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” immediately struck a chord with Dutton and her team. Beyond its exploration of universal themes like family and friendship, it resonated due to its celebration of Jewish traditions.
The story provided a unique chance to spotlight the bat mitzvah, a religious and cultural milestone rarely depicted in film, Dutton said.
Sammi Cohen, the film’s director, noted its broader appeal: “We don’t all have a bat mitzvah, but we all feel awkward when we have to step out in front of our friends and family and try not to make a mistake.”
Dutton believes that, despite changes in the tween world since the book’s 2005 release — particularly with the rise of social media — the movie will captivate both young and older audiences, transporting them back to the age of 13.
While the plot includes Stacy and Lydia clashing over their mutual crush, Andy Goldfarb, and his chunky, silver Magen David necklace, Dutton emphasized that the film isn’t simply about teenage romances. It also explores the deeper themes of growing up and the bond of friendship that eclipses transient youthful crushes.
“When I read the book, I fell in love with the story of Stacey and Lydia and I immediately related to it. It took me right back to my early teenage years, where your best friend is really your whole world in many ways,” Dutton said.
For older viewers, Adam Sandler’s portrayal of a father coming to terms with his daughters growing up will likely strike an emotional chord, Dutton said. This milestone signifies Stacy’s coming of age, not only for her but for her father as well.
“Adam’s character realizes that his daughter growing up doesn’t mean that he’s losing her,” Dutton said. “Even though as we cross life’s milestones, our relationships evolve.”
Portraying bat mitzvahs and Judaism authentically
Adam Sandler and Cohen were deeply committed to ensuring the authentic portrayal of Jewish traditions, such as Sunny’s chanting of her haftarah, Dutton said.
Dutton highlighted the casting of Jewish actors for Jewish roles and the decision to hire a Jewish director, emphasizing the production team’s dedication to authenticity.
“I’ve always been interested in the coming-of-age genre, and I was really excited to tell this story for Jews,” Cohen told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s really such a universal message, but Jewish kids get to feel like we have a movie too, which is really exciting to me.”
Cohen said the team wanted to display the progressiveness of a present-day Reform Jewish community. To ensure an authentic portrayal of Judaism, they hired rabbis for guidance on Hebrew and religious traditions, and consulting experts for the bat mitzvah party scenes.
Along with conveying the significance of a bat mitzvah and the preparation that goes into it, the duo also wanted to show that “Jews can throw a party. We love food, we love music, we love dancing. We are fun!” Cohen told Variety.
While Cohen and Adam Sandler had attended many bat mitzvahs and knew certain aspects never changed — such as “The Cha-Cha Slide” and adults gossiping in the corners — they wanted to keep the feel of the movie current.
To accomplish this, the team attended bat mitzvahs in Toronto, the film’s shooting location. What they observed, such as girls wearing sneakers rather than heels, and popular, modern music at the party, were woven into the film.
“The film doesn’t cover every single aspect of the Jewish experience but I think, at the heart of it, being Jewish is about community and family and coming together,” Cohen said. “It always feels warm and good and safe and ‘show up as you are.’”
Dutton said that she hopes that young Jewish adults will see themselves reflected in the film. “Representation is everything, and seeing yourself on screen — no matter your race, religion, or ethnicity — is always empowering and important,” she said.
Originally Published Aug 30, 2023 09:44PM EDT