Caramel

February 17th, 2009 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

A story from the Middle East that isn’t about war or death is a refreshing enough change as it is, but with such lovable characters it becomes more so, not least of which is the scrumptious Nadine Labaki, who wrote and directed the movie and stars as the lead character Layale, a Beirut beauty salon owner.

Her family, friends, employees, clients and the secret lover she drops everything for any time he calls make life rich and chaotic for Layale, and while everyone else is getting caught up in their romantic trials and tribulations (married, aged, gay — you name it), we get a sweet and honest picture of life in Lebanon that isn’t about bombs or Hamas.

Layale invests far too much time in her married boyfriend, and when she slaves away all day in a dingy hotel room to celebrate his birthday and he doesn’t show, it’s time to realign her priorities, one of whom might be the soft-spoken policeman who admires her from afar.

A varied cast of characters surround the shop, from the crazy old lady and her mild-mannered seamstress caretaker who gets a belated chance at love to the middle aged divorcee whose career as an actress might be stalling because of her age.

The story does lag though, and you’ll find yourself asking more than once who it’s supposed to be about. You’ll want the beautiful Layale to be the main character, but Labaki the director is a little too interested in everyone and everything else. Rather than just do another other-women-comes-to-her-senses rom-com, she manages the aforementioned love letter to her home city, but loses some of the emotional engagement in doing so.

It also doesn’t help that the end comes halfway through a scene where little is resolved. Did Labaki decide to comment on how life goes on and the travails of the heart never end, or did the producers run out of money?


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