Caramel Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 18, 2014
Despite the unrealistically attractive cast, perhaps excessive oestrogen and its deliberate angling to an international audience - I thoroughly enjoyed this film! Doesn't hurt that I watched it with two girlfriends in our room in a monastery in Bsharre, northern Lebanon. Nadine Labaki executes her multiple love stories with wryly humorous dialogue and surprising sensitivity and gently challenges the viewer with a light twist on familiar tropes. I sorely needed this contemporary view to break my stereotypes of Arab countries, and along the way found it an interesting critique of the lack of private spaces for young women in Lebanon. And Joanna Moukarzel has some pipes on her!

Bottom line: If you want to watch a film about Lebanon that doesn't involve war, "Caramel" is a moving, laugh-out-loud funny comedy with plenty of eye candy.
Super Reviewer
½ January 19, 2008
I have been wanting to see this one since I first saw it advertised a few years back. Just seemed to be one that I never came across at the video store, or remembered to look for. When it was finally shown on SBS a few months back, I taped it, and, you guessed it, forgot all about it!
Finally stumbled across it again today, (gotta love a public holiday), and finally I can say I have seen this lovely movie.
I heard it described as a very romantic film. It is and it kind of isn't. Though there is a lot of romance and romantic themes in it, it is firmly based in reality. There is potential for almost all in this film to have a romantic ending, but not all get it........SPOILERS........ Particularly sad in the case of the older lady caring for her old mother with dementia - you literally see her lose her courage. Pretty heartbreaking to think she missed her last chance at happiness, but on the other hand, you have to admire her selflessness in choosing to care for her mother.
Mostly this follows the lives and friendship of four women and is based around the beauty salon three of them work in. It is set in Beirut, which also gives this movie a little something extra - I found this both exotic and totally alien to my own life. You could say this is a far cry from a friendship movie such as the Sex & the City films. This somehow had more substance, while still being quite a feel good movie.
The main character Layale is involved with a married man, which obviously leads to tears. She becomes obsessed with his wife, Christine, who is such a lovely person even Layale kind of likes her, much to her confusion. Meanwhile, Layale can't see that the policeman who works across the road is secretly in love with her and a really nice guy.
Nisrine is about to be married and has a secret - her husband is not her "first" (I can't imagine this being a scandal in a SATC, but here it is, again, very different culture), and she decides to take some extreme action to hide her secret.
Rima is a lesbian and is attracted to a beautiful customer to the beauty store. This relationship is implied more than seen, but done nicely. I guess maybe that would be more scandalous in this culture also.
And Jamale is an ageing aspiring actress who is divorced and feeling her age so badly she has resorted to taping her face and lying about still getting her period to make herself seem more youthfull. Her audition screen test is funny and also heartbreaking. I really felt for all the women in this movie. Really, really beautifully written characters and story and leaves plenty to your own imagination and interpretation.
I will definitely be adding this one to my collection!
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2008
This movie surprised me. I did not expect too much when I walked into the cinema, but i really enjoyed it, a very bitter sweet touch...
Super Reviewer
½ March 17, 2008
This film paints a beautiful picture of life for women in Lebanon. The movie is devoid of bombs, terrorists, military and any of the usual suspects in movies that take place in countries such as Lebanon.

Instead, the film explores the trials and tribulations of five women who are connected by the work they share in a beauty salon. The bond they've created is a net of trust they can be assured of when it comes to confiding in one another.

Whether it be troubles with men; troubles with customers; troubles with dealing with aging; or anything else--these women are strong characters that exude a feminist aura that is all-but absent from the portrait the American media is willing to present us with.

This movie is a small, foreign-language gem that deals with women; is directed by a woman; but is no way a chick flick. It showcases the way of life in a country that I knew nothing about except for what I see in the news--and it's beautiful to see life being lived to the fullest by the inhabitants of a region with such a bad reputation.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2008
A lovely, sweet film. Think Steel Magnolias in Beruit. The action revolves around five women who work in, live near, or frequent a beauty salon, Si Belle. The owner realizes her affair with a married man is ending, her assistant is getting married and another employee seems to strike a chord with one of their clients. One of their most faithful clients is having difficulty finding work as an actress and model because of her age. The old woman next door is both annoying and sad. Her mind is obviously going and she acts childish in the extreme and causes problems for the woman who takes care of her. Lots of beautiful people, especially Nadine Labaki, its director and star. A wonderful introduction to Lebanese culture. A brilliant color palette from this first time director. A movie that makes you laugh while pondering deeper issues of why we love the people we do and how the little things can matter so much.
Super Reviewer
½ February 24, 2008
[font=Century Gothic]"Caramel" is set around the Si Belle Beauty Salon in Beirut where Nisrine(Yasmine Elmasri) is getting ready to be married to Bassam(Ismail Antar), just as long as he is not in jail. In other news, Layale(Nadine Labaki, who also directed) is carrying on an affair with a married man, making clandestine meetings in parked cars. Jamale(Gisele Aouad), a divorced mother of two, has started to audition for roles again. And there might be a very good reason why Rima(Joanna Moukarzel) is not getting married anytime soon...[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]"Caramel" is a touching and charming movie that may not seem like anything earth shattering here in the United States. At the same time, the beauty salon serves as an insightful metaphor for the diminished role of women in Lebanon where being careful is a necessary talent.(Speaking of which, could you please explain why anybody would ever want to get their legs waxed?) Regardless, what a person may be looking for could be right in front of their eyes and they don't even know it.[/font]
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2008
A wonderful film detailing the lives of Lebanese women at various points in life. Gorgeous in many ways.
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2009
Saw this around the same time as Sex and the City and there's no comparison, except for the group of women and their trials and tribulations looking for, keeping and losing love. It's so much more subtle, beautiful, heartfelt and the Beirut setting with its intensity, culture and repression makes it all the more poignant. The one who becomes someone she's not for her man annoys me, but the old woman, lesbian and the main character are all wonderful. Sweet without being saccharine, luscious without being heavy, sensual without being dirty. Simply gorgeous.
Super Reviewer
½ January 17, 2008
Caramel is the story of five Lebanese women coming to terms with their lives, while sharing a unique bond of friendship, probably portrayed by a tangible setting, the beauty salon, helping them cope with the harsh realities of existence.
First there's Layale who realizes her relationship with a married man is leading her nowhere. Then there's Nisrine who is to marry a Muslim man yet faces a terrible obstacle. As for Rima, she is a lesbian. Then Jamale who fears old age and seems to encounter but failures in her professional life. Lastly there's the very endearing Rose who must chose between love or her senile mother Lili.
Director Nadine Labaki (who also plays Layale) beautifully portrays the lives of these women without making it too melodramatic, occasionally adding dashes of humour to soften the film.

First of all, for a film whose title is "Caramel", there is not enough caramel. Of course everyone can remember the film Chocolat (with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp) which featured the life of a rebellious woman interwoven with the art of making chocolate. And basically, the movie just oozed with chocolate and the likes. But in Caramel, caramel itself is allotted only a few scenes, namely the opening scene where the process of making caramel is introduced to us - caramel in this movie being most of all used as an epilation method rather than for edible reasons. But then I thought, hmmm, the caramel in itself is the reason why these women are together. So Caramel is an appropriate title; well, at least better than Four Lebanese Women or Beauty Salon, haha!

The characters aren't as deep as one would think. I was expecting more depth and emotionally arousing situations. And as bizarre as it may sound, my favourite character wasn't even one of the main women; it was Lili, the mentally-challenged old lady.
Also, I wouldn't go so far as saying this is beautifully shot because it isn't. The colours are too dark for such a film. And no, I'm pretty sure it wasn't done to create a certain style. Common sense, people! When you call your film Caramel, I bet you'll try and make the scenes and transitions look as smooth as possible, far from angular shots that make the scenes look strict and devoid of softness. Sheesh!

Overall, a nice directorial debut from Nadine Labaki, worth a watch especially by fans of the genre. I'll definitely be awaiting her next film!
Super Reviewer
½ February 18, 2008
An amazing movie! Great story plot. Interesting tales of various characters. Great cast!
½ September 4, 2010
Caramel is a beautiful film set in Lebanon. The pictures of Lebanese culture, the imagery, all are amazing.
½ February 17, 2010
A beautiful Lebanese film about five women who work in a beauty salon, and their individual stories. The characters are warm and endearing, and the director evenly balances the light moments with darker ones. The movie is gorgeously filmed and is very sensual and dreamy, but despite moments of airiness, is very much not a typical chick flick. The characters are all made to deal with the contradictions and barriers in their lives. *MINOR SPOILERS* Despite a frothy conclusion, the ending is quite bittersweet. The director handles the romances of all the characters very subtlety. There is no gushing kissy scenes or epic moments of validation. Everything is alluded to, but nothing is concrete. I was left hungry for more, wanting to be with these characters longer. There is a sadness I couldn't shake off by the end. All the characters are lovely and spectacularly good-looking.
½ February 10, 2010
This film reminds me of my family. Very traditional. I can relate to this film. Have a glass of wine and enjoy.
½ December 25, 2009
For a chick flick, its surprisingly good! It wasnt all shopping and giggles; it had its real moments (and a good ending). And, wow, Nadine is soo beautiful!
November 7, 2009
I thought this movie was quite good. i identified with the subjects and I thought the concept was good.
½ August 10, 2008
Telling the story of five Lebanese women, all connected to a Beirut beauty salon, this is a simply charming film. The plot, rather reminiscent of a more reserved LOVE ACTUALLY, is very personal and real. It might be easy to dismiss this as simply a chick flick in Arabic, but it's much more than that. Like its title, which actually refers to the sugary compound Lebanese women use to remove hair rather than the candy, this is a film that is both sweet and capable of packing a sting. The cast, composed of typically gorgeous Lebanese women, is excellent and all the characters ring true. If the film has any flaws, it simply comes from the fact that it's over too soon without fully wrapping up all the loose ends.
½ April 19, 2015
A delightful story, well told and beautifully photographed. Whilst the stories focus on what might be called the traditional areas of women's interest (love, marriage, familial duty) they are neither cloying nor trite.
There are no grand revelations but it is a heart warming film created skilfully.
November 16, 2012
Pleasant but unremarkable.
March 24, 2014
A simple-but-charming movie about the lives of five related Lebanese women in dealing with their love lives. The cast, the cinematography, the score, all together uplifting Nadine Labaki's CARAMEL from another chick flick drama into a movie you will never forget.
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