Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don't-stream-it tip: Rachid Bouchareb 's JUST LIKE A WOMAN is a good opportunity missed

Having now seen three films from Rachid Bouchareb (shown immediately below), a Parisian-born filmmaker of (I am guessing) Algerian ancestry -- Days of Glory, the Oscar-nominated Outside the Law and now JUST LIKE A WOMAN -- I am also guessing that this director doesn't care to go very deeply into character. He's best when he can spin events and action into quite watchable, if somewhat predictable, movies. He also may be a bit more comfortable in the company of men, as the first two films mentioned above are a lot better than his latest endeavor -- even if that film was written by two women: Joelle Touma and Marion Doussot. Supposedly the first film in a planned Arab-American trilogy, this movie has us dearly hoping that the next two are better.

Just Like a Woman certainly is not awful. It features two good actresses, both of whom are very attractive -- Sienna Miller and Golshifteh Farahani (of Chicken With Plums and The Patience Stone) as put-upon wives. Miller's hubby's an unemployed adulterer, while Farahani's is a decent man unfortunately in thrall to his abusive mother. That he's played by the crack French actor Roschdy Zem (shown in photo at bottom) helps tilt the movie back toward an intelligent balance rather than what it most appears to be: simple-minded feminism-lite. When events get out of hand for our two gals -- how and why make up the most interes-ting part of the film -- they leave Chicago to go on the road together.

Miller's character, you see, is taking belly-dancing lessons (at which Farahani's, being from the middle east, is of course already adept). The former has an upcoming audition in Santa Fe, after which she hopes to be chosen for a dance company. On this extended road trip, our ladies stop along the way to do a few belly dancing gigs (one of which is shown above and has Miller donning a black wig). Though they earn some money for this, they may also be expected to provide a bit more than mere dancing.

Ms Miller (above) is ballsy and competent, as ever, but it takes a more richly conceived, written and directed movie (Factory Girl or Interview) for her to shine a bit. Ms Farahani (below) seems mostly sweet and unaffected in the more passive role.

Along their way they encounter sexism and racism, have some fun and frolic, and -- uh, yes -- bond. There is nothing that proves the least surprising, unusual or even very specific in any of this. (Except perhaps the two Native Americans who aid the pair toward the end of the journey.) And the dialog is of the standard, write-me-as-you-go-along variety.

Meanwhile, our gals have learned a little and we've learned zilch. Even about belly-dancing. From Cohen Media Group, Just Like a Woman -- a title as generic and marketing-oriented as you could want -- is available now on Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video & on Blu-ray/DVD.

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