‘You’re So Not Invited’ Writer Visits Temple Sinai
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‘You’re So Not Invited’ Writer Visits Temple Sinai

The program provided a lengthy opportunity to examine the creation of the Netflix hit.

Screenwriter Alison Peck was interviewed by Temple Sinai Rabbi Brad Leventhal.
Screenwriter Alison Peck was interviewed by Temple Sinai Rabbi Brad Leventhal.

Screenwriter Alison Peck, whose script for the Netflix late summer release, “You Are Not So Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” helped to make the film one of the most popular releases of the year for the streaming service.

Peck was a recent Sunday morning guest at Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs where she graciously answered questions by the temple’s two senior rabbis and then stayed on for another half hour for questions from the audience.

In the 90-minute Q&A session, Peck generously treated the crowd to some of the highlights from the long journey she has made from undergraduate in the University of Southern California’s screen writing program to years of laboring on the production side of the business. There is a lot of work, she reminded her audience, in becoming the proverbial overnight success in Hollywood and not a little bit of luck.

Interestingly, the story she has penned is not one she ever personally experienced. It is about how the central character, Stacy Friedman, played by Adam Sandler’s daughter, Sunny, contends with all the problems created by her impending, over-the-top Bat Mitzvah and along the way learns some lessons about life and has a few laughs as well. Although for Peck, growing up Jewish meant attending plenty of friends’ celebrations, she didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah.

Sandler’s daughter, Sunny, plays his daughter in the film.

Still, for the film, she did her homework for this script and as a portrait of the life of teens precariously balanced between childhood and rapidly approaching adolescence it has a certain charm.

In fact, as she pointed out to her listeners at Temple Sinai, the middle schoolers she writes about had little interest in how life was developing, they were more interested in what was facing them only on each given day.

“I found it really fascinating that this period is the most confusing time when you are growing up. You’re like a kid, but kind of stepping into adulthood. And maybe not everyone in your class is sort of hitting those things at the same time. And then you have this Bar or Bat Mitzvah where they’re telling you, you’re an adult now. And that’s why the 13-year-old has no business being considered an adult.”

The Adam Sandler production for Netflix was not only a popular choice for those who subscribe to the streaming service, but it was an even bigger hit with critics. On the Rotten Tomatoes review site, the film got a stellar 95 percent approval rating from several dozen critics. It was the highest approval rating ever for a Sandler film, even edging out his masterful Oscar-worthy acting job in “Uncut Gems,” his 2019 film for Josh and Ben Safdie.

Adam Sandler produced and starred in the film and included three family members in the cast.

This time out, he was the producer, star, and it would seem, the casting director as well. Joining him in this pleasant, coming of age film are his two daughters, and his wife, Jackie. It’s probably the largest gathering of acting talent from a single family since the early sound films of the five Marx Brothers in the late 1920s.

But despite it being such a family affair, the film works because Peck has created a story that seemingly has broad appeal, for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike, even though she admits she didn’t consciously set out to write it that way.

“I was pleasantly surprised that it was so relatable to so many different people. I didn’t really have it in my mind that I wanted to appeal to this age and that age. Of course, Netflix would have wanted me to do that, but I really was just like, you know, I’m going to write a teen sort of thing. Hopefully, adults will watch it because of Adam Sandler. Hopefully they can relate to it because they have kids. But for the most part, I just wanted it to feel cool.”

Perhaps the most valuable quality Peck brought to the film is the nature of the comedy she has created about modern day living. Although the film is not without its critics in the way it describes both the social and religious values of a carefully selected slice of Jewish life, Peck shows a certain restraint in portraying what could have gone wild off the rails.

“I think it has been really great to remind people of the joy of being Jewish, the community of it. People just being happy and having this fun movie to watch together, Hopefully, teens can watch with their parents and not feel too embarrassed or too weird And each person can take something from that.”

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