Posted January 31, 2008 in Film

In Lebanon—as here—cutting your hair means defiance. Dying it means change, and over-processing it into ringlets is a sign of narcissistic desperation. Things aren’t too different halfway around the world. Besides the occasional reminder that women can’t rent a hotel room for a tryst without proof of marriage, life for the women of Layale’s Beirut beauty shop is familiar, all gossip and grooming and gorging on the sweet caramel they use as leg wax. Actor/director Nadine Labaki’s self-contented dramedy is prosaically modern: Layale (a heavily-kohled Labaki) is sleeping with a married man, Nisrine (Yasmine Elmrasi) is nervous about her wedding, aging actress Jamale (Gisèle Aouad) is panicked about her looks, and Amy Sedaris-clone Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) can’t admit she’s a lesbian. Consider it Fried Green Falafel. (Only replace the girl power Whooo’s with those piercing trills.) The setting makes us ascribe more politics to this simple, sweet-natured film than Labaki and writers Rodney El Haddad and Jihad Hojeily probably intended. As though the entire film were spoken in a British accent, its shallow adequacy isn’t immediately discernible. Instead, as Rima goes the entire film without ever having to fess up to her sexual predilections, the effect is of a pleasant film that pulls its punches—and then you realize it was really just fumbling for a hug. (Amy Nicholson)      



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