Working Woman (“Isha Ovedet”) (Michal Aviad, 2018) 3 out of 4 stars.
Israeli director Michal Aviad’s Working Woman explores the trials and tribulations of a married mother of three as she re-enters the workforce, hoping to earn much-needed money following her husband’s more-expensive-than-anticipated new restaurant venture. All goes well, at first, in her role as assistant to a major real-estate developer, her bright ideas and pleasant disposition a welcome addition to her boss’s team. Unfortunately, her professional skills are not all that interest him, and soon she is fending off his most unwelcome advances. As she strives to regain control of the situation and hold on to a position that not only pays well but gives her status and a career she enjoys, will anyone support her? It’s a man’s world, and a working woman is mostly on her own.
Liron Ben-Shlush (Next to Her) plays protagonist Orna, mostly solid, though I never quite bought her as the exceptional saleswoman she is supposed to be. On the other hand, she is quite good in the more dramatic scenes of the film. Menashe Noy (Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem) is uniformly excellent (with less to do, for sure) as Benny, her sleazy employer. He perfectly conveys the sense of entitlement that many successful men possess, convinced that anything they want is theirs for the taking. Indeed, the movie’s very title indicates exactly what Benny thinks of his privilege vis-à-vis Orna. Together they dance an uncomfortable pas de deux, he on the offensive, she retreating until she decides to fight back.
Unfortunately, the part of Orna’s husband, Ofer (Oshri Cohen, The Goal), is somewhat underwritten, making his final moments of emotional distress less meaningful than they would be were he more developed. Still, as a cautionary tale about the perils of sexual harassment and the dangers women face when dealing with unscrupulous men,Working Woman does a fine job with many of its big beats and cathartic scenes, involving us deeply in its engrossing narrative. Orna survives to work another day, and we are right there with her.