As Adam Sandler brings the bat mitzvah to Netflix, we focus on the real-life version

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As Adam Sandler brings the bat mitzvah to Netflix, we focus on the real-life version

Is it all about the mojoto bar - or is it still a meaningful rite-of-passage?

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Idina Menzel and Adam Sandler star in You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah

I like big bats and I cannot lie. Of course I’m talking bat mitzvahs. There’s a bursting of pride as you watch your darling daughter read out her D’var Torah or sing her way through that week’s parsha, both of which have probably involved many months of agonising to perfect for her special day.

And then there’s the excitement and build-up to the party afterwards. What will be the theme? Where is the venue? What will everyone wear? And just how are you going to make your bat mitzvah different from the conveyor belt of simchas that seemingly book out your daughter (and in many cases you) every weekend for the next year?

Perhaps most pressingly of all, just how exactly will you pay for it?

Fran’s daughter Ella at her bat mitzvah

There was a time when a bat mitzvah was considered a more modest affair compared to a bar mitzvah, but equality caught up on all aspects of life, including how your newly-teen daughter marks her biggest moment in life to date.

It’s hard not to brush away a desire to keep up with the Cohens, a feeling made acute by Hollywood celebrities and mega-millionaires openly splashing the shekels and taking over Insta, TikTok and all the other social media platforms with streamed videos of their big day.

What they put on is nothing less than a Sweet 16 on speed – and mostly unachievable for mere mortals and mensches.

Zachary Peltz with Brooklyn Beckham

As a case in point, twins Xachary and Gregory Peltz – brothers of Brooklyn Beckham’s wife Nicola – enjoyed an eye-wateringly sumptuous $2million affair funded by their billionaire dad Nelson, which included stilt walkers, a hockey rink, basketball hoops and video games.

Meanwhile Drake, who had already celebrated his big day as a youngster, decided to mark his 31st birthday (31 being the opposite of 13) as his “Re-Bar Mitzvah”, which included inviting pals Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Tobey Maguire and Kelly Rowland. One can only wonder who did the bensching.

More recently, Adam Sandler celebrated his daughter Sunny’s bat mitzvah at a lavish party in Los Angeles attended by Jennifer Aniston, Taylor Lautner, Leslie Mann and Peyton List, among others. Aside from the rainbow disco lights and balloons, projected giant gummy bears, photo booth and mechanical bull, Sandler forwent the local DJ and enlisted Charlie Puth and Halsey to provide the simcha music.

Adam Sandler with his daughter Sunny

That Sandler and his actress wife Jackie went from throwing an opulent Hollywood bat mitzvah to making a film about a youngster (played by Sunny) who can only dream of having such an epic coming-of-age party is an irony not lost on viewers of his latest Netflix hit, You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah.

But the flick is such a heartfelt homage to the bat mitzvah girl – and arguably Sandler’s most Jewish film to date – that you can’t help but forgive and believe that for all the greenbacks the A-lister threw at his own simcha in real life, on screen he blasts a message loud and clear that bat mitzvahs are so much more than mojito bars, entrance videos and oversized hoodies.

Fran and her daughter Ella

Like Sandler, I too have the benefit of hindsight, having gone through the tunnel and emerged the other side after recently celebrating our daughter’s bat mitzvah.

Full disclosure – while we didn’t have anywhere near the Sandler’s real-life budget we did actually get the mojito bar. But I suspect even that would not have placated main character Stacy Friedman, who spends the first half of the film lamenting the fact she won’t be arriving to her simcha on a private yacht against a backdrop of fireworks.

Likewise, she won’t be entertained by Olivia Rodrigo or Taylor Swift. And she certainly won’t be able to pay for it with her college fund.

The ludicrousness of such a suggestion is not lost on Stacy’s parents Bree and Danny (superbly played by Idina Menzel and Sandler), or for that matter her know-all older sister Ronnie (portrayed by Sandler’s other daughter Sadie), who prefers watching horror films over dancing the hora.

Danny, like many a simcha parent before and yet to come, lovingly tells his daughter: “All you need to worry about right now is your mitzvah project and practicing your Haftara”.

But nothing will shake Stacy from the misbelief that the only thing that matters is the party. That and sharing her big day with her lifelong best friend Lydia (Samantha Lorraine), while also bagging the most popular boy in school, Andy Goldfarb (Dylan Hoffman).

Drake with his ‘re-barmitzvah’ cake

But in the vein of the best teen angst movies, everything blows up and Stacy is in danger of having absolutely nothing – no best friend, no boyfriend and certainly no epic bat mitzvah party.

Both Danny and the wondrously eccentric Rabbi Rebecca (Sarah Sherman) attempt again to bring her back down to earth.

“I had my bar mitzvah in my grandma’s basement,” Sandler’s character expounds. “We had fun. You know what the theme was? Being Jewish!”

In that one killer line, Sandler sweetly brings home what a bat mitzvah is and actually should be all about: putting on the best simcha you can, celebrating but not losing sight of what will make it meaningful.

Yes, the mojito bar was incredible and we loved the photo booth, the caricaturist, the glitter tattoos and even the jelly bean buffet!

But what really made our event a night to remember was the people we shared it with. That and the realisation that after months of nagging, crying and cajoling, my pre-teen actually seemed to get why we were doing this in the first place and how this rite of passage isn’t just an excuse to party but to connect to generations of Jewish women before her.

As the night wrapped up, I noticed even our DJ couldn’t help but shed a tear. “There was a lot of love in this room tonight,” he declared.

The cynic in me thought he might have been trying out the leftover mojitos and pina coladas, but a truth rang clear in his words.

There really is no limit to what you could spend on a bat mitzvah party, but as Sadie Friedman discovers, putting together a meaningful simcha you and your loved ones will remember for the rest of your lives – now that’s priceless.

You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah is available to stream now on Netflix 

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