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Juliette’s Trousers: Leggings Are Not Trousers
This film is a graduation project mostly shot on the AUC campus. Now as any student who’s tried to make a film knows, filmmaking is incredibly hard work; it can be very costly, even if you’re working with a micro budget, and usually it consists of using friends for as much free labour as possible. It’s an immensely difficult task and requires major guts and perseverance, but having said that, Juliette’s Trousers isn’t a very good film. And while some of its faults can be blamed on a small budget, the film’s biggest fault is in the script and plot; two things that could have held it together should all else fail.
The film revolves around the idea that leggings are not trousers and should not be treated as such. Arguing this is Tarek El Ibiary, while taking the stand for the opposing side is his girlfriend Mona Lasheen. He disapproves that she wears leggings with short tops; she maintains that her fashion choices are none of his business. This is the one issue that poses a problem for them in their otherwise blissful relationship and the film is basically a chronicle of how Mona’s leggings brought them together then tore them apart.
Funnily enough for a film with a central argument, it fails to make a convincing case for either side. The characters speak in clichés and platitudes never delving beyond the surface. Their arguments can be summed up to: leggings overly reveal a girl’s body, and the counter argument that girls are free to wear whatever they want. What is absolutely astounding is that not once does Mona tell Tarek that perverts will stare at a woman no matter what she’s wearing, and that the onus is on the harasser to stop and not on the woman to alter her lifestyle. There was clearly a concerted effort to avoid sexist tropes but due to the film’s shallowness, they fall into many of them anyway. For example, the justification that he is doing this because he cares and isn’t a control freak is trotted out a few times, though this makes it no better. The film doesn’t seem to realize that sexism is sexism no matter how sugar coated or how well-intended that person is.
Another problem that goes hand in hand with the aforementioned one is that the characters are wildly inconsistent with Tarek being the number one example of that. He fluctuates all over the place, starting out as a guy who’s idea of a good time is watching women as they walk by - in fact that’s how he first met Mona - only to become possessive when his friends insinuate that her leggings are a sign of her easiness. From then on, he goes back and forth between being mad at her for wearing them and supporting her right to wear whatever she wants. The acting doesn’t help much either; the cast is made up of amateurs and therefore the dialogue often sounds forced.
As for the technical side of things, the film is for the most part, poorly shot, lit and edited; some ‘funky’ editing tricks are liberally used, giving it an amateur feel - but there are some commendable points nonetheless. It was a pleasant surprise to see that even though the film revolves around leggings, not once did the camera focus on a woman’s curves, preferring instead to use multiple below the knee shots and guys’ reactions to convey the idea. The filmmakers chose the anti objectification route and kudos to them for that; this choice seemed to send a stronger message than all of the film’s dialogue. It says that women shouldn’t be ogled at no matter what they’re wearing and that is ultimately a very decent message to send.
Daniel Benmayor’s Tracers - a Parkour-themed auctioneer sporting a surprisingly robed Taylor Lautner - is as average as average gets. Worked on by a legion of writers, the film attempts to deliver an action-crime thriller, but apart from a handful of impressive stunts, there is very little here to warrant a rousing and a memorable viewing experience.
Set in and around the concrete jungle of New York City, Tracers follows the story of Cam (Lautner); a bike messenger who is barely making ends meet. Living in a garage and working hard to pay off enormous debts to a particularly unforgiving Chinese gang, Cam’s back is firmly against the wall, so to speak. One afternoon, while zipping and flying through the bustling streets of the city, Cam ends up smashing and totalling his ride into stranger, Nikki (Avgeropoulus) and it’s love at first sight - well at least for Cam, eventually tracks her down before learning that his mystery crush is part of a Parkour-crime gang (what?!) who essentially work for hire.
Intrigued by their free spirit and impressive athleticism, Cam - whose strength and skill is quickly put to the test – soon joins the group. However, it doesn’t take long for him to see that everything is, as is so often in these cases, not as it seems.
Tracers is probably best described as a blend of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surfer-themed action crime flick, Point Break – starring Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze - and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s 2012 bike messenger-centred, Premium Rush, minus the occasional hair-raising moments of former and the intensity of the latter. The stunt-work is pretty impressive, there’s a hell of a lot of running, climbing, swinging and rolling and we’ll assume that any Parkour fan out there will find enjoyment in the otherwise dull mix. However, it seems that too much of the production’s energies have been spent on the unconventional stunts at the expense of what ends up being a paper-thin plot, which translates into the classic style-over-substance snag.\
Sporting a little bit more of a grittier and adult look than Twilight fans will be familiar with, Taylor Lautner – who manages to keep his shirt on for most of the film – does most of his own stunt work and as, far as his physical capabilities go, the young actor can’t be faulted. But following his breakout role as a werewolf-morphing, buff charmer-come-creeper, something isn’t clicking as he tries to launch his career into the action world. He has the looks, enough of the right type of talent, the fan-base to break into the genre – as well as a martial-arts background – but Tracers is another underwhelming endeavour for the twenty three year-old.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the follow-up to its slightly more superior 2012’s sleeper-hit predecessor, is in fact - if we really must go there - the second-best of the two. Once again directed by John Madden – see Shakespeare in Love - and scripted by Ol Parker, there seems to be enough material and fresh new drama to keep you genuinely invested and keen on this quirky and colourful but, seemingly overblown sequel.
Picking up more or less where the first film left off, the story is once again centred on the workings of the Best Exotic Marigold - a pleasant and a charming hotel for the elderly located in Jaipur, India - and a group of British retirees who have now become its more permanent residents.
Following the hotel’s success, its ever so slightly over-enthusiastic manager, Sonny (Patel), and snarky long-term tenant and new partner, Muriel (Smith), are looking to expand the business by reaching out to an American company - represented by Ty Burley (Strathairn) – which will hopefully offer the financial support they need to build a second hotel – all while Sonny prepares to wed fiancée, Sunaina.
Meanwhile, Madge (Imrie) is still busy looking for love by seducing various suitors, while Douglas is trying to find a way to profess his love to Evelyn (Dench) who has since picked up a full-time job as a textiles buyer. In the meantime, Norman (Pickup) is suspicious and thinks that his girlfriend, Carol (Hardcastle), is seeing someone else, while the arrival of the mysterious Guy Chambers (Gere) has Sonny in somewhat of a tizzy.
One of the main reasons behind the success of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel actually is its undeniably talented and charming ensemble cast who once again that personality and charisma goes a long way and, luckily, there is plenty of the two to go around. Everyone seems to be game and, although Patel seems to have dialled-down his over the top energy, he is still the weakest character while the effervescent Maggie Smith is again the glue that holds it all together.
Love, death, fear of commitment and haunting pasts are at the heart of it all and, although some of the story threads are genuinely interesting to follow, there is too many of them to keep up with. Nonetheless, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel oozes an intangible charm that makes it easier to forgive its failings. Let’s just hope there isn’t a third Exotic Marigold Hotel in the works.