Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
Directed by : Nadine Labaki
Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Release date: February 1, 2008
Genre: Art/Foreign and Comedy
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
MPAA Rating: PG
Language: Arabic/French with English subtitles
It is a breath of fresh air to see a comedic movie from Lebanon. The excessive killings and political turmoil that has brewed over the years in this region between Syria and its Lebanese allies (the Hezbollah) who are anti-Western in their policies in government has this country in a state of chaos. In light of all this fighting, Lebanese actress and music video director Nadine Labaki has brought her fiery and appetizing screenplay to the silver screen. This is her country's Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008).
The film focuses on five women from different backgrounds and ages in Beirut who frequently socialize at a beauty parlor and share their experiences on life and men. Layale, (Nadine Labaki) a single young beautiful woman who runs the shop and lives at home with her parents and younger brother is having an affair with a married man. Nisrine (Yasmine Elmasri) is a young liberated Muslim woman who has plans on getting married, but her liberation had allowed her to experience a sexual relationship prior to her engagement to her fiancee, which is forbidden in that culture. She opts for hymen reconstructive surgery to deceive her husband to be. Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) is confused with her attraction to other women and has a crush a lovely long haired patron. This is a taboo in this society. Jamale (Gisele Aouad) is an aging actress who still makes casting calls while raising two children without the help of her ex-husband. And last of all is Rose (Sihame Haddad) an older woman and seamstress who sacrificed her life to care for elderly manipulating and often quirky sister. These women are passionate and gifted with a strong temperament. All of this is between a hairdo and body waxing with caramel.
The characters in this dramedy is a mixture of Muslim and Christian women. In a country where Islamic religion is 60% and Christian is 1%, the movie does not make a point of people's differences on that issue. However, it highlights their similarity on life issues with men and women. Each woman showcases their comedy timing and their dramatic flair. I looked at this marvelous film and thought of Gilmore Girls, Coyote Ugly and Sex In the City, but with a middle eastern slant. The performances of every character was great. The supporting cast of Adel Karam, Fatme, Safa, Dimitri Stancofski, Fadia Stella, Ismail Antar and the very funny Aziza Semaan as Lili made this a great ensemble.
This in a sense is a traditional "chick-flick", but what I found to be very important is that it stayed away from the haunting lifestyle of war that is so relevant in Lebanon. It also sends a message of what cohabitation and coexistence between different religions and cultures do and can be. This film will have a wide appeal for women, but it's great entertainment for the guys, too.
FILM RATING (A)