This past weekend, a particularly nasty virus had me bed-bound and in need of a good, undemanding comfort watch. So I was particularly pleased to discover that the Hallmark channel had premiered “Made For Each Other,” a Jewish rom-com, on Saturday (particularly welcome on a day that was labeled by antisemitic extremists as a “day of hate”).
And it’s inspired by one of my personal favorite Jewish folklore stories: the tale of the golem.
For those of you who don’t know, a golem is a creature from Jewish tales created out of clay and animated through Jewish amulets and spells.
As the great Illeana Douglas, who plays Jewish neighbor Doris, explains in “Made for Each Other” (the punny title is excellent), “Hundreds of years ago, rabbis would create sculptures of men made of clay. They would bring them to life to defend their communities and generally tidy up the house.”
Golems have been features in sci-fi shows — from “Gargoyles” to “The X-Files” — and horror movies for a while, but this is the first golem-themed rom-com I’ve encountered.
To be fair, we all probably once had a fictional platonic ideal of someone who would come and sweep us off our feet — and a golem works perfectly for exploring that, and how it contrasts with who we end up falling for.
In fact, the winner of Hey Alma’s fourth Hanukkah Movie Pitch Contest, in which readers of our partner site send in plots of potential rom-coms they would like to see brought to life, featured a similar plot — including a golem, played by Paul Rudd, called Paul Mudd. (I, too, would fashion my ideal lover in the shape of Paul Rudd, to be honest. And I did end up marrying a short Jewish man from Kansas City, so, not that different?)
“Made for Each Other,” written by Israeli-American Adi Blotman, stars Alexandra Turshen as Rachel, an art teacher and aspiring professional sculptor; Matt Cohen (“Supernatural,” “South of Nowhere” and “General Hospital”) as David, a friend of her future brother-in-law who has wonderful chemistry with Rachel; and Aaron O’Connell as our golem, a life-sized idealized man that Rachel sculpted who is brought to life.
It turns out that Rachel’s neighbor Doris has a kind of Jewish Mary Poppins-esque bag filled with rugelach and — surprise — Jewish amulets. It’s with said Jewish amulet from Doris’ bubbe that Rachel brings to life Clay, her (ahem) clay-made dreamboat.
I love the specificity of the Jewish stone amulet itself, featuring a Jewish star, a golem and the Hebrew words for loyal and strong, smart and kind (though not the word “emet” — truth, usually associated with the golem) — all qualities that our onscreen golem possesses.
Like golems throughout time immemorial, Clay is a simpleton: not dumb, per se, but he has a childlike view of the world. O’Connell, a model and actor known for “The Haves and the Have Nots,” plays him quite endearingly.
Clay is everything on Rachel’s list of the perfect man and despite discovering a passion for culinary arts thanks to Doris’ rugelach, he is even willing to go to law school for her so he can truly embody every part of her ideal.
David, the third person in this love triangle, is actually a lawyer — though he jokes that his Jewish parents actually wanted him to be a doctor. Cohen gets to pay homage to Jewish greats from Lenny Bruce to Jerry Seinfeld (in fact, both Seinfeld and Don Rickles get a mention in the film) as an aspiring Jewish comic; I was definitely feeling “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” vibes.
This isn’t Cohen’s first stint as a romantic Jewish lead — in fact, in 2019, he starred as the first Jewish lead in a Hallmark Christmas movie — but it is by far his best. He brings perfect comic delivery and timing to the role, and he has great chemistry with both Turshen and O’Connell, whose Clay winds up becoming one of David’s best friends (they’re really quite cute together).
A Hallmark movie about a comic could fall into so many trite and lackluster places, but “Made For Each Other” is actually genuinely funny, even outside of David’s act. The rest of the cast bring a lot of humor to their roles — particularly Douglas, who brings some delightfully dry humor as she portrays a hippie free-thinking surrogate Jewish aunt to a tee (more sassy Jewish aunt representation, please!).
The movie is a very handsome, 2/3 semitic love-triangle (well actually, technically, as Rachel’s creation, the golem is Jewish, too, even if O’Connell is not).
It’s also very wonderfully and casually Jewish — it’s not a Jewish holiday movie! It does have yarmulkes, Jewish wedding vows, jokes about Yom Kippur and pushy Jewish parents, and parents doing casual kugel drop-offs. And rugelach. So much friggin’ rugelach! (I need some rugelach.)
Like Hallmark’s “Hanukkah on Rye,” this movie is an ode to delicious Jewish food. “There’s so much food in this movie, if you like food, [watch] ‘Made for Each Other,'” Turshen joked in a Q&A on the Hallmark Facebook page.
Yet “Made For Each Other” is hardly flawless. While she does slightly redeem herself in the movie’s final scene, Rachel’s mom is mostly a two-dimensional caricature of a Jewish mom, one who is more interested in her daughters getting married and having children than anything else. (“The perfect gift is grandchildren, your new mother-in-law has registered for three,” Rachel jokes at her sister’s wedding.) At least Rachel’s Jewish family is supportive of her career of choice — in contrast with David’s, as we learn through his entire comedic act.
It’s a delightful Hallmark movie about building the life you want for yourself: All three main characters have artistic aspirations, and they all feel the tension between wanting to please those around them and taking risks to make the life of their dreams. If you need some blind idealism in your life (as I did in my sickbed), the movie definitely delivers.
It also offers a lesson about how all the made-up criteria about love and romance can fall to the wayside when we meet that person who truly sees and loves us for who we are — and who really, really makes us laugh.
“Made For Each Other” is a wonderfully schmaltzy tale of two (ridiculously good-looking!) Jewish people falling for each other. Hallmark is really coming through with the affirming Jewish content this (Jewish) year, and I, for one, am pretty grateful (though would be even more grateful if you could send me some rugelach).