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Wahed Saheeh: Drama About the Perfect Wife and Unrequited Love
Ridiculously translated into ‘A Whole One’, Wahed Saheeh isn’t a romance as much as it is a film about unrequited love.Abdullah (Salama) is the ultimate playboy. He’s also an arrogant douchebag but he’s charming, rich and successful, so girls fling themselves at him anyway. Wahed Saheeh recounts his relationship with four women; Nadine (Basma), Amira (Alloush), Mariam (Raees) and Farida (Yousef). Each one represents a certain aspect of Abdullah’s version of the ideal woman. Nadine is his best friend and knows him better than anyone, Amira’s the only woman he’s been able to emotionally connect with, Mariam is a stereotypical good girl, and he and Farida have great sex. Things get even more complicated as he comes under pressure from his mother to pick a wife and settle down.
Salama is pretty convincing as a charming womaniser with a huge ego; yet his breakdown near the end of the film just isn’t as believable. One scene in particular comes to mind where Abdullah is overcome due to Amira’s disappearance and is ranting and raving to a very sympathetic Nadine. We’re told that Abdullah’s absolutely distraught yet it’s Nadine that looks like she’s just lost the love of her life.
Basma as Nadine is the film’s undisputed highlight. She’s Abdullah’s best friend who happens to be going through a divorce for reasons she hasn’t made him privy to. She does her best to set Abdullah up with her cousin Mariam, whom he takes a fancy to due to her pure, sweet, feminine demeanour. Through Mariam and Amira’s arcs, the film succeeds in critiquing Egyptian society on two fronts.
Firstly, Abdullah and Mariam signify the double standard in our society, where the woman has to be as pure as the driven snow while the man can sleep around. It’s quite clear that Abdullah never loved Mariam or viewed her as his equal; he’s just been conditioned into believing that he’s entitled to a wife like her.
Secondly, Amira’s arc deals with the problems facing interfaith relationships. As a devout Christian, she deals with this problem on two fronts, once in the capacity of Abdullah’s girlfriend and another as the daughter of a man who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim woman. She wants to be with Abdullah but he doesn’t want to go against her religion or subject her kids to the kind of pain and confusion that her dad put her through.
The weakest link character-wise is Youssef’s Farida. She’s a married society wife/doctor who has commissioned Abdullah to work on a project with her. They begin an affair and suddenly this very assertive woman turns into a grovelling idiot when Abdullah throws one of his tantrums. In an unhappy marriage with a gay man that nonetheless afforded her riches, her arc tries, rather shallowly, to explore the concept of marriage as a business contract and not as a romantic union.
The film’s soft focus quality adds to the film’s overdramatic nature, yet the liberal use of US Top 40 songs is really jarring. The way the many storylines are juggled is pretty impressive. The characters are all connected by Abdullah but we also get to know about their lives away from him. And while the extensive use of voiceover manages to cram in a lot more about the characters than would normally be feasible, they still come across as rather shallow and their storylines occasionally become stereotypically melodramatic.
Adapted from the pages of Lee Child’s eighteenth novel in the Jack Reacher franchise, Never Go Back comes four years after Christopher McQuarrie’s relatively well received Jack Reacher; a movie, regardless of its somewhat predictable and flawed premise, was largely considered an entertaining and above-average crime-thriller. Unfortunately, its 2016 sequel, an action-packed but terribly derivative story of the we-must-uncover-the-truth-and-break-a-load-of-bones-in-the-process variety, doesn’t for make for as good viewing.
Set four years after the events of the first film, the story is once again centred on the ex-military police officer, Jack Reacher (Cruise); a perpetual loner and a man of few words who hitchhikes from town to town, stumbling on corruption and crime which he usually resolves with one smouldering look and a pair of deadly fists.
After doing so in the movie’s opening sequence, Jack soon makes contact with Susan Turner (How I Met Your Mother’s Cobbie Smulders); a woman who has taken over his former position at the Virginia-based military unit and with whom he has, over time, formed a close - and relatively flirtatious - relationship with.
However, when Reacher decides to surprise her with a visit, he soon learns that Turner has been arrested on what appears to be, fake espionage charges. With the case naturally falling right in his field of expertise, Jack soon sets out to uncover the truth and, oh yeah, break a few bones in the process.
While many fans of Lee Child’s series of paperback thrillers – it seems that the British author has been churning them out once a year ever since its beginning in 1997 - are still a little stuck-up about the fact that Tom Cruise – a man of five-foot-and-seven-inches – has been cast to play a man who is his physical opposite. But you have to hand it to Cruise; regardless of his now aging physique, he once again proves why he’s paid the big bucks.
However, while the presence of Tom Cruise - who embraces his character with enough stoic bravado and fighting skills to give Jason Bourne a run for his money – elevates the film, the same cannot be said for the flimsy and often uneven storyline that surrounds him. Attempting to offer a profounder insight into Jack Reacher’s history and life - hinting that he is in fact a desperately lonely man who is looking for a deep and soulful connection to another human being - Zwick’s ill-conceived script, along with a combination of cheap one-liners, and awkward comedic tone and weak action set pieces, is not strong enough to carry its own weight.
Lacking momentum and a presence of an intimidating villain - Heusinger’s cold-blooded killer who refuses to take his gloves off is as exciting as watching paint dry - Never Go Back doesn’t know what it wants to be and even though, fans of the series won’t be too disappointed with the end-result, those with little patience might not want to stick around whilst it figure it out.
For his latest feature film, Woody Allen decides to return to Hollywood and explore his signature themes of love, passion and lost dreams in Café Society; an easygoing yet familiar comedy-drama which, although mostly watchable, lacks focus and is in need of a richer dramatic element.
Narrated by Allen himself, the story opens in 1930’s Hollywood at a pool-side party where Hollywood agent, Phil Stern (Carell), is sitting sipping drinks, looking important and commanding the attention of business associates and other admirers surrounding him. He is soon interrupted by a telephone call from his older sister, Rose (the wonderful Jeannie Berlin) who informs her brother that her youngest son, Bobby (Eisenberg playing what appears to be a younger version of Woody Allen), is headed out to Los Angeles and that Phil should help him get settled in.
After a few weeks of avoiding the initial meet, Phil soon meets with Bobby and lands him with a job at the agency where the young boy from the Bronx soon falls head-over-heels for Phil’s secretary, Vonnie (played by the refreshingly expressive Stewart).
See, although Vonnie is interested in Bobby, she can’t commit to the relationship as she’s also canoodling with his uncle, who is trying to decide whether he should leave his wife of twenty-five years or not. Learning about the twisted love-triangle, Bobby begins looking for love elsewhere while, at the same time, dreaming of his home and uncomplicated life back in NYC.
Whilst Bobby and Vonnie’s story is seemingly the centre-point of the film, Allen doesn’t spend too much time focusing on the love birds, instead whizzing the story back and forth between NY and LA, where we also get to spend some time with Bobby’s parents and his terribly clichéd gangster of a brother - played wonderfully by House of Cards’ Corey Stoll. It keeps the story moving, but the lack of focus means neither of the stories really stick.
Set against a glossy Hollywood backdrop, one thing that stands out, however, is the cinematography. With the help of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and the employment of the first-ever digital camera in a Woody Allen film, Café Society has that appropriately flashy feel to it, which successfully brings out the lavishness of its surroundings and, at the same time, ends up compensating for the writing’s occasional laziness.
The performances are solid with Eisenberg’s jittery naivety playing wonderfully against Stewart’s subtle nature and quiet beauty. It’s a shame that the rest of the picture couldn’t match their performance with Bobby’s description of life in Hollywood, “kind of half-bored, half-fascinating” serving to be the best assessment of the movie itself.