Gal Gadot is astonishing, in the original sense of the word, not the hackneyed sense of the word. Truly astonishing. It’s no cliché or exaggeration. Her presence shines at a distance. It’s not just her stunning beauty. Many actresses fit the conventional Hollywood model of beauty: the all-American women who know how to pose, some of whom look especially elegant and elitist.
Even these actresses aren’t in the same league as Gal Gadot. She has something the others don’t. It’s hard to define what that quality is: Gadot is outside of time. It’s as if she were hovering a few inches above the ground. It’s no coincidence that she was chosen to play Wonder Woman and then Cleopatra: two characters who wear crowns atop their heads.
Gadot stands out above the multitudes. She doesn’t have royal blood and yet she’s regal. This quality was once attributed to the mythic Audrey Hepburn; I can easily see the similarities between the two. The delicate and refined Hepburn, an elegant bird.
She had a silent charm and an internal and external delightfulness that other successful contemporaneous actresses – the larger-than-life ones, some of them awe-inspiring divas – did not. She wasn’t intimidating, nor very flirtatious. She wasn’t modest or diminutive.
She came across the screen like a summer breeze, with a seemingly effortless ease and a rare blending of contrasts: fragility with serene power, heat and chill, accessibility and distance. She wasn’t part of the game, maybe because she was born in Belgium to an aristocratic family. Not quite in, not quite out. America pursued her, not the other way around.
Gadot is ostensibly Hepburn’s antithesis. A Mediterranean sabra coming from one of the noisiest, most vulgar countries in the world. Yet somehow, though diverging in both time and place, she managed to acquire similar characteristics.
The two actresses also share another detail: Gadot, in “Death on the Nile,” wears the famous diamond necklace from Tiffany, weighing over 128 karats, that Hepburn wore 50 years ago. This is a marginal and trivial detail, but it carries some interesting symbolism.
It marks the fact that Gadot is worthy of her status: is someone who possesses a very particular kind of white and European “grace,” a less vulgar term than those Israelis might use to describe this situation in Hebrew. Being regal, graceful and delicate aren’t really part of the Israeli sensibility. They never were, and apparently were never meant to be.
That is, until the arrival of Gal Gadot. She appropriated to herself a Hollywood pedigree that in the past was reserved for a Christian elite. Suddenly this Jewish woman popped up, an Israeli with a foreign look, a darker one, shattering the hegemonic power in the powerbroking centers of the entertainment industry.
Surrounding Gadot is a halo that is hard to describe in words. She is classy, that’s the word I’m looking for. Gadot looks like someone from the glorious era, before faces became avatars, before celebrity images were copied and pasted as if they were taken from a database of digital photos that became one big human lump of clay.
Another thing that is very striking about Gal Gadot is that she simply can’t act. She really can’t. It’s embarrassing. It’s regrettable to have to say this. When Gadot opens her mouth in a movie, the text comes out like gravel, shattering one’s front teeth. It’s not just the accent, which no number of diction lessons can entirely suppress. Gadot is not an American and never will be. English is not her mother tongue, nor her daughter tongue.
Nothing can help, not even her immense ambition, charming smiles, or distracting special effects. It’s a combination of inborn phonetic limitations and a wooden means of expression, which was on full display in the cringeworthy performance of “Imagine” by various celebrities, a project Gadot initiated during the coronavirus pandemic.
I’m not actually sure Gadot needs to know how to act. Her charisma, her impressive presence, her physicality and nonchalant sex appeal may suffice to sustain her as a unique icon. But Gadot is no model or street statue. She’s an actress. A terrible one.
Yes, this is a judgemental statement made whisperingly behind doors, sometimes by movie critics. After all, one wouldn’t want to wreck things for her. She’s the greatest thing that ever emerged from this hole, so why not praise her all the way? Because she hasn’t gone the whole way herself. She got stuck midway. A Hollywood megastar with the acting abilities of a student at a second-rate acting school.
Since this is a prevailing opinion, it was only a matter of time before the truth came to light, and publicly, online. A short clip lasting only four seconds, from the movie in which she’s wearing that diamond necklace Audrey Hepburn wore, has recently turned her into a hysterical joke.
Suddenly, all her grace imploded. The queen turned into a pumpkin, the diamonds to ashes. Gadot is seen facing the camera, on the deck of a fancy boat sailing on the Nile, holding in her hand a glass while telling guests that they have “enough champagne to fill the Nile.” And then, she pours her glass into the river. This ridiculous statement is inadvertently made with exaggerated pomposity; it’s campy, recited in a robotic manner lacking self-awareness, which leaves one no choice but to burst out laughing.
It’s no wonder that this clip became a viral meme that quickly spread everywhere. The internet is quick to identify creaks and falsity, pouncing on such clips and transforming them into collective jokes. “Enough champagne to fill the Nile” is a stupid sentence which will enter the Hollywood canon of gaffes.
Tweeters are already reporting hordes of viewers breaking out into wild howls and loud applause during screening of the movie. It’s not out of malice or schadenfreude, and it’s not antisemitic. There are some cinematic moments that are etched in one’s memory precisely because they expose the creative failure of all those involved. Gal Gadot, to her detriment, is now starring in a scene which has become iconic, precisely in this sense. This is also a kind of honor, questionable perhaps, but honor nevertheless.
It takes just one sentence, a single one, to shame a person. Gal Gadot may make $20 million per movie, yet four seconds and “enough champagne to fill the Nile” turns her from an admired star into the clown of the hour. This raises wistful thoughts regarding the basic flaw embedded in every emigration.
If people pounce on Gal Gadot so easily, what chance remains for the average Israeli who hopes to seamlessly integrate among the Gentiles? There will always be a misplaced sentence, some flawed accent, some imprecise nuance that reveals our foreignness, immediately identifying us as the outsiders we are.
If Gal Gadot can’t fully integrate, what chance do we have, simple folk who are only looking for relocation or a green card? That Israeli inarticulateness, which can be charming at times, like that of people hawking Dead Sea products at some remote mall in Nashville, is an inseparable part of Gal Gadot, alongside her glorious regality and grace. She shot to the top, but ultimately, she’s not one of “them.” You can’t really leave home. And home doesn’t really leave you.