PIFF review: ‘Caramel’

The French-language Lebanese chick flick Caramel has already screened for PIFF, but there’s always a chance it will make it to Sunday’s replays (so vote it up if you like it), and it actually opens at the Fox Tower tonight as well.

Layale applying caramel to wax the upper lip of a client

Much in the same vein as a brash American film such as Beauty Shop, Caramel takes the simple idea of women friends and puts it in a country quite a bit more restrictive than here. But the style is also decidedly more subtle.

The general plot follows each of the unfortunate trials of the 4 women. Layale is having an affair with a married man. Nisrine is worried that her conservative husband will be upset to learn she isn’t a virgin on her wedding night. Jamale is a struggling, aging actress and Rima is fighting her lesbianism and subsequent crush on a client.

But none of this is quite apparent to begin with. Although by the middle of the film it’s easy to tell what’s going on no one, except Nisrine, states their problem directly. Jamale is so secretive, in fact, that her trouble is reduced to furtive glances and shots of her hands flowing through her crush’s hair. And while I appreciate that the audience is presumed to be smart enough to understand there could have been more discussion, at least among the women, as to how to deal with their situations.

As a film about female friendship and support Caramel is successful. But in the end, none of these ladies seem any more empowered or even decisive which can leave a female audience member distinctly unsatisfied.

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