Herbert J. Cohen

Kosher Movies: Say Anything

A female physician, who married a number of years ago, recently introduced me to her husband. I expected to meet a college grad in some white collar job, but I did not. Instead, I met a very sweet guy who worked as an auto mechanic in a local service station. I wondered what prompted each one to connect with each other, but soon realized that just because two people have similar educational backgrounds does not mean they are compatible intellectually and emotionally. Sometimes, opposites do attract. That is at the core of Say Anything, a teen romance between a class valedictorian and an affable young man who has no idea of what he wants to do with his life.

Lloyd Dobler, an average student who envisions kickboxing as a possible career, one day decides to date the brilliant Diane Court immediately after they graduate from high school before she leaves for college. Say Anything follows their relationship as it waxes and wanes through the prism of teenage angst.

It is 1988 and Diane is practicing her valedictorian speech. Although the talk is humorless, Lloyd still wants to date her, and so he asks her to come with him to a graduation party. Surprisingly, she accepts even though she has little idea of who Lloyd is. When she attends, she has a great time and feels more integrated into the world of other teenagers, who are more socially adept than she.

Diane continues to date Lloyd and they both enjoy one another’s company. When Diane learns that she has won a prestigious scholarship in England, Lloyd wants to come with her, much to the chagrin of Diane’s father. Plot complications ensue as she and Lloyd travel their rocky road to love in spite of their disparate backgrounds.

Jewish tradition is very clear on who has the final say when it comes to compatibility between couples. They are encouraged to consult with parents and trusted friends, but the final decision is the couple’s. The Babylonian Talmud tractate of Kiddushin (41a) records that “it is forbidden for a man to marry off his daughter when she is young, until she is older and says, “He is the one I wish to marry.” Moreover, even arranged marriages were never forced.  The consent of a Jewish young man and woman was required as a pre-condition for the match. Furthermore, the Biblical story of Isaac and Rebecca indicates that their wedding was not considered a done deal until Rebecca had given her consent. As the Torah says, “Let us call the maiden and ask her (Genesis 24:57).”

This principle of mutual consent was later made part of Jewish law. The great medieval sage Maimonides in his code of Jewish law, the Mishna Torah, declares that “a woman cannot be married unless she consents to the match of her own free will.” The Talmud thoughtfully mentions the following precautions before marrying: buy land quickly but be deliberate in finding a wife, don’t betroth a woman you have not seen, find a woman close in age to you, and do not marry for money.

Lloyd Dobler is very deliberate in his quest for Diane’s affection. He is not interested in money. He likes her looks but also admires her braininess and her good character. That is what sets Diane apart from other girls. She is a thinker who both examines and experiences life. This is what brings them together in spite of their different social and educational histories. The fact that they can be honest with each other and “say anything” makes their relationship special. Both Lloyd and Diane are without pretense and that paves the way for an enduring relationship.

About the Author
Originally from Mt. Vernon, New York, Herbert J. Cohen served in the pulpit rabbinate in Atlanta at the beginning of his career. After six years, he moved into the educational rabbinate and served for 23 years as Principal of Yeshiva High School of Atlanta. In 2010, he and his wife came on aliyah to Israel. His latest book, published by Urim Publishers, is "Kosher Movies: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema." He may be reached at
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