I don’t pretend to be some expert at human relationships much less some Jedi Master in the ways that men and women relate to one another. (What? Did my ‘Jedi Master’ reference give it away too soon?) I only know what I know from personal experience – my own life choices, my own reading, my own TV watching, etc. – and, based on what I know, I tend to think people who are legitimately unhappy with one another find a way to get out of that coupling sooner as opposed to later. Hollywood types would always have you believe differently – they apparently see much of America as being stuck for at least a decade in fruitless pairings. Otherwise, how would they have so many jilted women stories to tell?
Try as hard as it does, JUST LIKE A WOMAN seems more like what I’m told is a man’s existence: it’s patently superficial, it’s without much real substance, and – when in doubt – it wears all the wrong clothes to all the wrong occasions.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Despite a casual acquaintance with one another, Marilyn (played by all-too-plain Sienna Miller) and Mona (a dazzling and doe-eyed Golshifteh Farahani) share the same tortured reality: they’re both stuck in dead-end marriages, they’re both deserving of better, and they’re both nearing the end of the fuses. Who knew they also were both great bellydancers? Fate must’ve thrown them together as Marilyn decides to take it on-the-lamb in a cross country bid for her last shot at making it big in … ahem … bellydancing. At the same time, Mona accidentally kills her cruel and uncaring mother-in-law … so only in Hollywood would that mean she’s long overdue for a road trip!
Somewhere between my sarcasm and reality, I’ve no doubt JUST LIKE A WOMAN is an acceptable piece of entertainment; I just wish someone had told writer/director Rachid Bouchareb that. His script – along with contributions from Marion Doussot and Joelle Tourma – instead try ceaselessly to make this some kind of spiritual THELMA & LOUISE with dancing, and pardon me for pointing out that those sentiments really end up being two left feet here. For one thing, there just isn’t enough meat on the bones of this story – yes, you caught all of it from my brief synopsis, mostly – for it to rise to such an occasion of being a ‘heavy message film.’ And, for another thing, neither lady seems all that effective as bellydancing, though I’ll admit Ms. Farahani is a sight to behold under almost any circumstances.
Also, like THELMA & LOUISE and so many other films of that nature, JUST LIKE A WOMAN tries too hard to stoke the fires of relevance in places where it’s an obvious theatricality. Marilyn can’t seem to catch a break at home, much less at work, but my-oh-my her small-town male(ish) dancing instructor seems to think she’s destined for the big leagues after (get this!) ten years of small-town lessons. (Helpful tip: folks are usually discovered in dance well before ten years’ practice.) In contract, Mona’s husband apparently loves her – at least, he says as much – though it soon begins to look like she doesn’t truly reciprocate with any depth other than ‘movie love.’ She dances around him in the convenience mart he owns, but, apparently, she never meant it. Even the two police detectives drawn into this 90-minute film for all of – what? – maybe ten minutes screen time (at best) can’t help but seem more like convenient script creations with all-too-predictable backgrounds and motivations than they are fully realized, real-world, blue-collar people in a flick that’s allegedly blue-collar. (Ahem? Bellydancing?)
To make matters worse, Bouchareb couldn’t help but pack the worst Hollywood stereotype – a racist Southern family in an RV who work out their differences with others by kicking women in the dirt – into this tale at a time when the point was already made: everybody hates a bellydancer.
Or was that why is mankind so mean to its womankind?
JUST LIKE A WOMAN (2012) is produced by a whole host of companies (just check it at IMDB.com), including 3B Productions, Cohen Media Group, Minerva Pictures, and The 7th Floor (to name but a few). DVD distribution is being handled by the Cohen Media Group. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds solid throughout. As for the special features? There’s a gallery of production stills and the theatrical trailer, a package that’s shockingly almost as trim as Ms. Miller’s abdomen.
RECOMMENDED. Clearly I think writer/director Rachid Bouchareb wanted me to care more about the ladies at the heart of JUST LIKE A WOMAN than I did, and I wish I could tell you why definitively. Perhaps it was the casual nature of their friendship. Perhaps it was the ‘passing fancy’ they apparently lived their other relationships with. Perhaps it was the fact that, as dancers, I just didn’t see them all that gifted and/or talented (which essentially might be the fault of some bad cinematographical choices). Whatever the case, I just didn’t. I wanted to, but, in the end, I didn’t.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at the Cohen Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of JUST LIKE A WOMAN by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.