Arranged

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Well meaning but all too obvious in its message, "Arranged" depicts the burgeoning friendship between two women -- one Orthodox Jewish and the other Muslim -- with all the depth and sophistication of an Afterschool Special. The film, written by Stefan Schaefer and co-directed by him and Diane Crespo, is essentially preaching to the choir. It is playing an exclusive theatrical engagement at New York's Quad Cinema.

Rochel (Zoe Lister Jones) and Nasira (Francis Benhamou) are beginning teachers at a public school in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Rochel's ultra-conservative clothing and Nasira's headscarf make them stand out at work, with even their principal (Marcia Jean Kurtz), a secular Jew, urging them to adopt more modernistic ways.

Both women become caught up in their families' traditional efforts to see them married off. A matchmaker arranges a series of increasingly dire dates for Rochel, while Nasira's father imports a singularly appropriate relative from their home country.

The similarity of their predicaments helps bring the women together, with their growing bond becoming the cause of curiosity among the students and deep concern within their families. Ultimately, true friendship wins out, with the pair overcoming the prejudices of their community and even finding true love with suitable men along the way.

The beautiful lead actresses are appealing, even if their characters never prove particularly interesting. Less effective are the performances by several of the supporting players, who ultimately are unable to overcome the stereotypical aspects of their broadly written roles.
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