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Sarkhat Namla: Definitely Not the Official Film of the Revolution
Sarkhat Namla revolves around the economic differences in Egypt seen through the eyes of Gouda (Abdel Gelil), an Egyptian contractor who was wrongly imprisoned in Iraq. The film tries to address the issues that Egyptians have been faced with in increasing economic difficulties such as the increase in food commodity prices, the rate of corruption and their effects on the Egyptian people.
Upon returning from Iraq, Gouda is disillusioned at the depressing state of the country. With very little to his name, Gouda finds himself in conflict; his sense of patriotism compels him to get involved in the revolution, but at the same time, his efforts to live a comfortable life lead him to become involved in the same type of underhandedness that the revolution is rising up against. Naturally, this inner struggle drives Gouda to extreme measures and consequences.
Originally meant to be a comedy, the story suffers from many elements that simply felt forced. Since it's mainly seen through the eyes of Gouda, you'll get the feeling that his jokes are misplaced. Egyptian films in the last twenty years or so have invariably pulled off adding humour to real-life situations but sadly, it doesn’t work here. It wasn't only the script that was the downfall of the film; but the setting as well.
Sarkhat Namla’s advertising campaign positioned it as the official film of the revolution. This is inaccurate, as it tries to focus on the events that helped in inspiring the revolution. In fact, the shooting was almost completed before January 25th, and when the revolution kicked off, additional scenes were filmed to make it more relevant. This further adds to the mess of the script, as the story seems disjointed. Another contributing factor is surely the fact that it had to be quickly edited after being picked to screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Abel Gelil turns in an adequate performance that doesn’t stray too far from his usual style. On the other hand, Youssef fails to shine and isn’t adequately used, appearing intermittently as Gouda's belly-dancer wife. The rest of the cast are distinctly average; nothing more, nothing less.
It’s actually astounding how the film fails to deliver on any of its promises. It’s neither really about the revolution, nor is it funny; the jokes and scenarios are worn out, the parts that specifically talk about the revolution only do so in a very shallow way, and images and footage of the protests are used awkwardly. Ultimately, Sarkhat Namla is a poorly executed film that fails to portray an important and topical subject adequately.
If you are in the mood for an uncomplicated, lighthearted and a feel-good romantic-comedy viewing, then Nancy Meyers is the one to turn to for help. Known for movies such as Private Benjamin, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday, the 65 year-old writer-director – who is often referred to as the female version of Woody Allen – always delivers and she does so again with The Intern: a likable cross-generation comedy that is kept afloat by a dependably engaging script and a couple of amiable lead performances.
Set in New York City, The Intern is centered on Ben Whittaker (De Niro); a 70-year-old widower who has become frustrated with the retirement lifestyle and is desperate for something to fill that ‘hole’ in his now, mundane and predictable everyday existence. Luckily, his prayers are soon answered, when he comes across an advertisement for a senior internship program at an online fashion company, founded by the high-strung CEO, Jules Ostin (Hathaway).
Ben applies and is soon accepted, ultimately landing a spot as Jules very own personal assistant. However, Jules is not so keen on the idea and doesn’t really know how to deal with the unusually well-mannered senior, deciding its best to keep him at an arm’s length. Nevertheless, Ben – an extremely patient man who may not be particularly tech savvy but knows a thing or two about life– soon finds a way to get closer to his boss and offer her the much-needed support, just in time when her career and position of power is at stake.
There is something awfully comforting about watching a Nancy Meyers film, as not only are her movies pleasing to the eye –her movie sets have ended up wondering onto the pages of numerous decorating catalogues over the years – but there is also something terribly gratifying in knowing how her stories will turn out in the end. Straightforward and extremely likable, the same goes for her latest directorial effort, a movie which may not be on the same creative level as Something’s Gotta Give perhaps, but still has plenty of its own harmless charms – no matter how far-fetched they may seem – to earn a warm viewing recommendation; a stamp of approval aimed mainly at a slightly older audience.
Stuck somewhere between a buddy-comedy and a romantic drama, The Intern is not entirely flawless and Meyers seems to have had a little trouble in setting out an even tone throughout; additionally, the subplot involving Rene Russo – who plays the company masseuse– is never really looked into or explored. However, it’s the two leads that keep The Intern from falling apart as both De Niro and Hathaway bring so much heart and chemistry to their respective roles that it makes it awfully difficult not to be drawn into their white-collar world.
Easygoing, likeable and perhaps a little too safe, The Intern is not Meyers’ best work to date but, it’s reliable and entertaining. What more do you need?
Despite the familiarity in The Gift’s conventional, and somewhat predictable, stalker-thriller setup, Joel Edgerton – who writes, directs and stars as the lead – has managed to deliver a quiet and lingering psychological drama that isn’t all bad.
Tired of Chicago and its relentlessly cold weather, Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) have decided to move to Simon’s hometown of Los Angeles and make a fresh start. Purchasing a modern and uniquely designed home, Simon – a sales executive working for a computer security firm – soon begins his new corporate job, while Robyn – an interior-designer dealing with a case of mild depression – works from home and take care of their dog, Jangles.
During one of their shopping outings, the pair runs into Gordo – short for Gordon - (Edgerton); a socially awkward high-school classmate of Simon’s who wishes to reconnect with his old bud - and his wife - by showering them with gifts and unexpected house visits. Robyn is instantly intrigued by Gordo’s peculiar ways and wishes to get to know him better while, Simon is annoyed with his presence and wants nothing to do with him. Uncomfortable with the way Gordo is smothering Robyn with attention, Simon soon confronts him and asks him to leave them alone; however, Gordo is not willing to go away so easily.
The Gift marks the directorial debut for the Aussie actor, Joel Edgerton –previous screenwriting credits include 2008’s The Square and 2013’s Felony - who successfully handles the job at hand and delivers something that is both intriguing and beautiful to watch. Maintaining a sense of surprise and a hefty dose of stalker-induced tension, The Gift is far from an original piece of storytelling – Edgerton is happy to borrow from other similarly told thrillers – however, even though if the plot plays out as expected, there is still a certain element of surprise and allure to keep everyone engaged.
On the downside, however, the idea to incorporate the cheap – sometimes relatively effective – jump scares Blumhouse Production is known for, is what downgrades The Gift’s initial potential, while a couple of subplots are left totally unexplored. Luckily, the commitment from all three actors is what helps keep The Gift with its head above water at its with both Hall – as the somewhat lonely and insecure woman dealing with anxiety – and Edgerton – as the subtle and terrorising weirdo - coming out on top. Bateman, known for his deadpan humour, is given the opportunity to showcase his more dramatic side and for what it’s worth, he does so brilliantly.
Anchored by a few strong performances and an intriguing central story, The Gift is certainly not without a fault, but it’s got enough about it to leave it lingering in your mind after the credits roll.