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Geddo Habibi: Cringingly Irritating Egyptian Comedy
Fekreya (Boshra) is a British-raised Egyptian who insists on being called Vicky. Completely broke and out of her job after the stock market crash, she decides visit her estranged grandfather Hussein (Yaseen), who is on his deathbed in Egypt. As his sole heir, she stands to inherit a fortune which would effectively cure her financial woes. Predictably, she gets to Egypt, meets her granddad and after a thorny adjustment period, they become best buds.
The film kicks off with an awful opening credits sequence that really sets up how irritating Vicky’s character is. It was during this sequence that this reviewer first found herself cringing; something that would be repeated quite frequently throughout the rest of its running time. The film’s first act involves Vicky and her roommate harping on about the money Vicky stands to inherit if her grandfather would just die already. The movie paints the roommate as the more awful of the two, although Vicky is every bit as distasteful.
The middle of the film revolves around twenty-something Vicky’s friendship with a bunch of teenage boys and the problems this poses for her grandfather who thinks it isn’t proper. Cue a bunch of partying scenes and her granddad coming home to find kids making out and a random guy offering him a spliff.
The final act has Vicky and her granddad tracking down a former flame of his who, lo and behold, has a grandson who would be perfect for Vicky. This is when the film takes an inexplicable turn for the preachy which, all things considered, is still a definite upgrade to everything that preceded it. It extols, quite heavy-handedly, the virtues of real-love marriages as opposed to arranged ones, and gives Vicky the happy ending she’d been dreaming of forever; a husband.
678 had Boshra showcasing some decent dramatic chops and this reviewer would like to implore her to stick to drama because her comedic timing is completely off. Vicky was something along the lines of a manic, grossly materialistic person until she falls in love and suddenly calms down. It’s a very unlikable character and one that’s frankly highly irritating mainly due to the thrashing around that passes as physical comedy. It was the visual equivalent of nails on a chalk board. On the plus side though, Boshra has a pretty decent English accent.
The rest of the actors didn’t fare much better. Yaseen looks remarkably healthy and active for someone who’s knocking on the doors of death, while Abdel Aziz looks distractingly botoxed and is made up to look like a raccoon. Meanwhile, Fahmy is so bland that he barely registers on screen.
The actors involved in this movie are capable of so much better which makes this wreck even more depressing.
A truly original horror film isn’t easy to come by these days; even the likes of Paranormal Activity and, going further back, The Blair Witch Project don’t stand-up to second viewing after the dust has settled from the initial impact. Irish production, The Canal, isn’t the film that’s going to change that, but it does have its positives.
The story tells of a husband troubled by paranoia; film archivist, David (Evans), suspects that his wife, Alice (Hoekstra), is having an affair and his suspicions are proven right. Amidst the impending demise of his marriage, he also comes to discover that a gruesome murder was committed in his house some one hundred years ago and he becomes increasingly unstable when Alice goes missing and he becomes the number one suspect.
While it’s far from perfect, writer/director, Ivan Kavanagh, manages to create a sense of dread and anticipation throughout, all the while resisting the conventions that have come to define the modern horror genre. It wouldn’t be completely off-point to call The Canal a more traditional, old-school haunted-house horror, with the dreary Irish backdrop making for an apt setting.
The aesthetic seems to have seeped into the dialogue, however, and paints the script with dreary deadpan interactions. But what will keep you engaged most is David’s slow emotional descent; it gives the film a humanness that many modern horrors lack. But as we’ve mentioned, this is a film not cut from the same mould and European film continues to produce diverse and unique horror.
Again, this is far from perfect and there’s a Hollywood polish that moviegoers have become accustomed to that’s lacking and at times this is a film that will make you feel uncomfortable in the best of ways. It’s as much as psycho-thriller as a horror and despite an underwhelming conclusion, it’s indie horrors like this that will impact the genre in the decade to come.
You’ve got to feel sorry for Pierce Brosnan; it’s difficult to evaluate how good an actor he is because it’s impossible to picture him outside of his stint as James Bond and, for us at least, he will be most remembered for getting a antelope thrown at his head by Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire in that strangely satisfying pool scene.
In fact, these two roles have come to define his career and his roles often fit into one of two categories – smooth, charming Englishman, or slimy Casanova. His role as a Cambridge poetry professor in romantic comedy, Some Kind of Beautiful, straddles the line between both, but only serves to prove that this very particular 90s style of rom-com is becoming less and less relevant.
The story goes like this; womanising professor, Richard Haig, impregnates a student of his, Kate (Alba), and tries to do right by her, by putting a ring on it, so to speak, and moving from England to California. Their imposed married life soon comes crashing down when Kate falls for another man, but Richard stays close to his son. Down on his luck and facing possible deportation, Richard finds solace in Kate’s step-sister, Olivia, who comes to develop feelings for him.
Directed by Tom Vaughan, the film pieces together the most trite rom-com clichés to sickly effect and frames its interpretation of romance in the most clichéd, and outdated, of ways. Brosnan’s character is pushed as a sort of misunderstood here; a victim of his own overflowing charm, his magnetism being as much a burden as it is a way to lure his unsuspecting students and other similarly beset women. Subsequently, Alba is painted as boring and promiscuous woman and essentially plays a bit-part in the telling of this most unnecessary of narratives. This in turn characterises Olivia as the fire-cracker woman who tames Richard. Granted, Hayek does the whole fiery Latino sexpot thing pretty well, but the whole thing folds one cliché into another – something that extends to Malcol McDowell’s turn as a forcibly amusing, grumpy old man, while Richard’s son does little but force a generic and hollow sense of sentimentality into proceedings.
In the end, the most interesting thing about this production, as harsh as it may seem, is that it’s another plaque on the Vaughan rom-com wall of shame – see Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher in 2008 flop, What Happens in Vegas. A film like this essentially suffers from what one might call like the domino cliché effect. Once the first cliché hits, it’s impossible to stop the rest.