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.
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!
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.
[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]
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!
There are no grand revelations but it is a heart warming film created skilfully.