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Loving Leah movie review

My roommate was just watching this Hallmark special movie entitled Loving Leah that was just on CBS, the basic story is that Leah is married to Benjamin, Benjamin dies so Leah decides to do chalitzah and marry her brother in law – I missed the beginning of the movie but here is a basic review.

Loving Leah was good, not too good, but fairly good and relatively accurate. Loving Leah got some stuff right, the sheitles were hot, Leahs mom was a classic nagging Jewish mother, Leah goes to kiss the mezuza in her new home and there is none, she makes shabbos by herself and she feels really uncomfortable in a mans home. Jake, the guy who has to marry this women is already dating some girl, and the girl eventually breaks up with him and he falls in love with Leah.

The movie was pretty predictable, Leah basically throws off the yoke of her orthodoxy, attends a black tie event in an untznius dress and then gets all hot and heavy with her new husband. Its classic, the language was good, shabbos was actually pronounced as such and not as shabbat.

There were several things which were to be expected Jake can’t figure out what to do because he feels as if he is betraying his brother by shacking up with his widow, so he goes to the local temple, the Rabbanit is wearing a talis – what Rabbis have to wear a talis all the time, whats the deal with wearing it like a scarf? In fact I should do a whole rant on how non-orthodox Jews wear talesim whenever they enter a shul, similar to the women wearing doilies.

I am sure the Jewish news sites will have something about how much of a chillul Hashem Loving Leah was, but I enjoyed this cute love story. The Rabbis at the end were so fake it was pathetic, but the general story line was pretty accurate and its one of those feel good everyone lives happily ever after stories.

I already know that a ton of frummies will be ranting about how horrible Loving Leah was – but it really wasn’t too bad, girl loses husband does chalitzah and falls in love with her new and less religious husband – both make compromises and the modern orthodox movement gains some members.

Loving Leah on IMDB

{ 132 comments… add one }
  • tnspr569 January 25, 2009, 11:19 PM

    Interesting is all there really is to say…

  • GG January 25, 2009, 11:20 PM

    I thought it was pretty entertaining and had a good laugh or 2 from it.

  • Frum Satire January 25, 2009, 11:22 PM

    I thought it was cute and romantic…wow that sounds so girly.

  • monkeycher January 25, 2009, 11:27 PM

    lol, hesh. i think it’s time to rent rambo.

  • TRS January 25, 2009, 11:47 PM

    Conveniently forgetting, of course, that the last time yibum was done was when exactly?

  • Chavi January 26, 2009, 12:04 AM

    I’m not a frummie, and I thought it sucked. You should watch the interview that the woman who played the nagging mother did on The View. Man, what a biznatch. She pretty much thinks Orthodox Jews are crazy bananas.

  • Zoli January 26, 2009, 12:06 AM

    First Paragraph- you mean Yibum, not chalitzah- right?

  • Frum Satire January 26, 2009, 12:25 AM

    Chavi she was the only one that really felt like she did a good job doing her part

  • TheCoolJew January 26, 2009, 12:43 AM

    My mother called me to tell me about this show so I took a look at it. From a Frum stand point why could she not continue her frum life and help that guy grow! Why cut standards?

  • s(b.) January 26, 2009, 2:16 AM

    cute and romantic, eh? someone hasn’t been putting on tefillin lately. (jk, dude.)

  • Frumcritic January 26, 2009, 2:20 AM

    My thought is that one important point should not be missed. Despite the typical liberal stereotypes of all of the life of the frum world, which are boring, rehashed and uncritical, there is something very refreshing.

    Yibbum, a halachic institution that could have been disregarded and disrespected was instead painted in a very romantic light. First, the secular brother sees himself as responsible for the wife of his deceased brother.

    Then at the end, they see the brother as having brought together two people who should have had love in their life. The idea that Yibbum is a method through which Hashem makes Shidduchim. It’s a very interesting take and the only positive aspect of the movie on a “Frum” level.

  • ConservativeSci Fi January 26, 2009, 7:06 AM

    This sounds like the kind of chick flick that I would hate, even with the interesting Jewish elements.

    Hesh, I don’t know where you go, but in most non-orthodox synagogues the problem is not people wearing taleisim too much, but not even wearing them when receiving an aliyah. Most reform synagogues now at least have taleisim, but I don’t think most people wear them. While many conservative men (and a fair minority of women) wear the taleisim on shabbat morning, not all do.

  • ESP January 26, 2009, 7:37 AM

    Nice review Hesh, you should use it as a ‘spec’.

  • Nemo January 26, 2009, 8:16 AM

    At least they finally got the hats and kappotes right … at least that’s what it looked like in the preview.

  • dys January 26, 2009, 8:35 AM

    I only watched half before getting tired of it, but I have to say, the only one who got the frumness dead-on, was the small part of Leah’s sister, near the beginning of the film. She seemed totally accurate. But Natasha Lyonne, the actress who played her, went to Ramaz. She may have been MO, but anyone who’s MO in NY has connections to the yeshivish community and it seems like she channeled that.

  • Yossi G. January 26, 2009, 9:11 AM

    Yeah, it was fun, I agree that the show was entertaining and that the mother had it spot-on, her rigid face conveying her uptightness and fear of fun.

    What I hate about these movies and books (Sotah, The Red Tent, a dozen others) is that they grab an almost-true fact and pervert it in a way that makes the religion look not just archaic but perverse.

    For example, while chalitza is done today, there is no such part of the ceremony denying the brother’s existence. That would be just nasty!

    Likewise, the “revelation” of the movie was that this frummie could lose not just the sheitel but all her frum things, join a Reform synagogue, marry a totally non-observant man, and live in a treif house that she made “ok” in a few hours. All that was different, that needed to be kosherized/corrected before the mother’s visit, was to get a dining table!

    I can take fiction as well as anybody, but these stories are like the historical novels that confuse people, and in this case with nasty results, because most people don’t know enough to realize that this is no longer normative practice.

    Does anyone know why Hallmark seeme so intent on showing specials with heavy Jewish content?

  • s(b.) January 26, 2009, 9:52 AM

    I don’t know about Hallmark’s intentions, as far as content goes, but I do know that anyone who really wants to serve a kosher meal in their home either knows that it’ll take more than a couple of hours, or they simply kasher a microwave, bring in kosher food from outside and reheat it in the freshly kashered microwave and eat on new paper/plastic tableware. Which requires ordering the food in advance and a little prep, day of.

  • Wendy January 26, 2009, 9:54 AM

    I loved the movie. Predictable, but still a sweet love story. I loved the end when they embraced the love for each other as a gift from Benjamin.

  • Phil January 26, 2009, 10:05 AM

    I missed it, I saw the last 30 seconds of it as my wife was watching. She told me about it, thought that the denying the brother’s existence part of it was true until I told her that it was a CBS invention.

    Like Yossi said, most of these movies are made to make us look archaic or outdated. As you see, that little twist on the words of the Chalitza basically made the whole movie, without it, he never would have shacked up with her.

    Chalitza has been standard practice for centuries, rabbis have advised against yibbum for a couple thousand years.

    TV in general pretty much sucks these days, from crappy dramas to so called reality shows (which have nothing to do with reality). Only things I can bear to watch are boxing after dark, UFC and the cartoon network, I limit my TV to Saturday nights only.

    What I would really like to see is for Hallmark to dare try and do one of these types of movies about islam, maybe something about honor killings or the stoning of a girl for uncovering her face or making out with a guy, you would probably have worldwide riots and bomb threats.

  • Josh January 26, 2009, 10:38 AM

    Go watch.. “When do we eat?” a nice passover story ! 🙂

  • Ramses818 January 26, 2009, 11:52 AM

    Does anyone know where I can watch it online for free

  • Ramses818 January 26, 2009, 11:53 AM

    Sorry forgot to add my email address from the previous post.

  • tesyaa January 26, 2009, 12:06 PM

    didn’t watch it, but that didn’t stop coworker from bringing it up first thing this morning

  • Frum Satire January 26, 2009, 12:14 PM

    Josh when do we eat was hilarious but very borscht belt humor besides for the stock broker turned chabadnick

  • Anon January 26, 2009, 12:54 PM

    Those antisemties on the view pretty much bashed chasidim for 30 minutes.

  • Frum Satire January 26, 2009, 1:20 PM

    Its funny because the two women were not even chassidic – I love how they don’t know that there is anything between reform and chassidish

  • Tzipporah January 26, 2009, 1:58 PM

    I watched it, too. Couldn’t look away – like a trainwreck.

    Here’s my review

  • Ariella January 26, 2009, 2:51 PM

    Whats the difference between Chaliza and Yibbum if there is one? I don’t think theres anything like this in the community i grew up in (Sephard). I have never heard of this concept. I did not watch last night’s movie, as I knew i would be cringing all the way “A stranger among us” style.

  • Phil January 26, 2009, 3:11 PM

    Yibbum and Chalitza go hand in hand, although yibbum is not practiced these days.

    If a couple get married, have no kids and then the husband dies, his younger brother gets the priviledge of marrying the widow in order to pass on his brother’s name. If he doesn’t agree, the widow performs the chalitza ceremony, in which she takes of his shoe and spits at him. she is then free to marry anyone else.

    In this film, they decided to do some sort of fake marriage for convenience and ended up falling in love, in true sappy hallmark style.

  • Miriam January 26, 2009, 3:43 PM

    The phoniest touch was Leah wearing a doily on her head for the unveiling. Even if she had emancipated herself from the shaitel, she could have put a scarf on like she did in an earlier scene, or purchased a hat. Only someone who never puts anything on their head – including on a cold, snowy day, would wear a doily!

  • jesse January 26, 2009, 4:27 PM

    I didnt get to see the movie. But this morning on a break from seder I heard another buchker mention the interview on the view. I just watched a part of the interview. And I thought these people have no idea what they are talking about. Basically the “view” put lubavitch in a bad light.

  • Excuse Me January 26, 2009, 4:28 PM


    It doesn’t have to a younger brother. In fact the oldest brother has right of first refusal and then it goes down the line

  • Ariella January 26, 2009, 4:45 PM

    Geez. I don’t like the sound of that… like the woman gets passed around. My theory is- I belong to my husband. That is that his bro is just an inlaw. But if it floats their boat, im not going to get into it…

  • Talmudist January 26, 2009, 4:48 PM

    folks, Siskel’s successor has arrived…

  • frum consultant January 26, 2009, 5:04 PM

    One of the million things i have wanted to do, is be a frum consultant to the tv/film industry.

    Ever since I saw the episode of Sapranos with the Chasidim who ran the motel, and saw how unrealistic, not necessarily in a bad way, they are being portrayed, I think i can make a nice living consulting them how and what they look/act like. even the famous movie, price above rubies, i mean come on, those guys looked so out of whack. All they needed was a frum guy/girl who lives/lived the life, explain to them what it is really like.

    I know they aren’t after the truth, but if you can persuade them, the industry, that by putting up the real thing, the authentic thing, the movie/show will be so much better, they might listen.

  • salamadeus January 26, 2009, 8:18 PM

    This was a story about responsibility. See Judah and Tamar. A real tear jerker and I loved it.

  • jelen January 26, 2009, 10:10 PM

    “yibum” is when she marries the brother in law. “chalitza” is when she decides not to and does the whole “spitting in the shoe” ceremony.

  • jelen January 26, 2009, 10:12 PM

    crap, i should have read the comments first!

  • Former Teacher January 26, 2009, 10:54 PM

    At least it had one true fact: Marriage is not like you see in the movies!

  • Moshe January 26, 2009, 11:07 PM

    It isn’t that they advise against Yibum, it’s just assur now days.

  • Mark January 27, 2009, 12:51 AM

    It isnt that they advise against Yibum, its just assur now days.

    Is Yibbum really assur nowadays? Would that be for all Edot, Ashkenazi and Sefardi? I seem to recall a few rare cases of Yibbum in Israel, but my memory has been known to be faulty. Anyone have any sources?

  • yakidy yak January 27, 2009, 1:43 AM

    yibum is not assur nowadays anymore then it has been since the times of the mishna (over 2000 years). it’s discouraged and chalitza is encouraged (and must be done for the widow to remarry).
    it’s just less accepted by society and therefore only done in extreme rare cases.
    these standards apply for sefardim and ashkenazim etc. alike because they were instituted way before any of these divisions took place.
    also, the spitting is not in the shoe or at the brother, rather in front of him. ‘veyarka befanav’

  • yakidy yak January 27, 2009, 1:46 AM

    for reasons such as yours the rabbis originally encouraged chalitza rather than yibum

  • Sheva NYC January 27, 2009, 8:50 AM

    I liked the movie, it wasn’t what I would call ethnically perfect. The playwright Pnenah is quoted as saying she wanted it to be a light Moonstruck/Crossing Delancy type movie. In this respect I think she succeeded.

    I think it presented the topic in a respectable and easy to understand way, in typical Hallmark fashion.

    Seriously you see the Frum mother as saying its ok for her daughter to be less frum without a fight? Kissing her husband in the middle of the street–oy the loshen horah it would unleash from the neighbors!

    Also the doily at the end, I agree seemed very very out of place…she would be wearing a head scarf of sorts. I have not seen doilys even on the most respected of smorgasbord dessert tables in many years…..

  • Susan January 27, 2009, 3:25 PM

    I thought it was a cute show but then again I’m a sucker for the romantic stuff. I thought the pairing was adorable. It was very predictable but nice feel good movie.

  • BT January 27, 2009, 4:58 PM

    My favorite part of the movie was the shul scene, when shul is just ending and the rabbis smile these triumphant smiles to the applause of the audience… I mean congregation. It brought back all these fond memories of my life growing up in as a Reform Jew in a Reform congregation, where the rabbis “performed” and the entire “service” was indeed a show. So the clapping at the end was definitely on the mark lol

  • S Roth January 28, 2009, 12:33 PM

    classic “both make compromises and the modern orthodox movement gains some members”

  • Layla January 30, 2009, 12:48 AM

    I also thought the movie was cute and fun. But my friends and I are absolutely appalled by the clothing that the “frum” women wear in this movie. Those shirts look like they are from the 80s…and a few times she doesnt even match!!! what the? We dont dress like that.
    I was raised to take pride in my neat appearance and to treat myself like I am the daughter of royalty. I wish the costume designer had done her research.
    I wish I could have been on the view to defend ourselves.

  • therapydoc February 1, 2009, 10:05 PM

    So it’s a chick flick. That’s amazing.

  • Alvis March 7, 2010, 12:37 AM

    I was so disappointed in the ending. They get married for religious reasons, and how does end? She walks away from her religious lifestyle… doesnt make any sense to me and is disturbing!

  • mm December 13, 2013, 9:46 AM

    I believe the term you intended to use is Yibum. Not Chalitzah, which is the alternative. If the brother-in-law chooses NOT to marry, the widow performs Chalitzah.

    As is stated:

    But if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, the brother’s wife shall go up to the gate, to the elders, and say, “My husband’s brother has refused to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel he does not wish to perform the obligation of a husband’s brother with me.” Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and he shall stand up and say, “I do not wish to take her.” Then his brother’s wife shall approach him before the eyes of the elders and remove his shoe from his foot. And she shall spit before his face and declare, “Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s household! And that family shall be called in Israel ‘the household of the one whose shoe has been removed.'” — ibid. 25:7-10.

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