A Beirut beauty salon becomes a treasured meeting place for several generations of women, from various walks of life, to talk, seek advice and confide in one another.
Taking its title from the sweet substance that doubles as a depilatory, this honey-hued diversion makes few claims towards originality. Other female-oriented films have centered around salons, but the Lebanese locale of Nadine Labaki's debut distinguishes Caramel from the likes of Venus Beauty Institute (with Audrey Tautou) and Beauty Shop (with Queen Latifah). In Labaki's generous take on the subgenre, she plays Layale, a stunning stylist in love with a family man. Little does she realize bashful beat cop Youssef (Adel Karam), who issues Layale a stream of traffic citations, feels the same way about her. Parlor regulars include Muslim bride-to-be Nisrine (Yasmine Elmasri), ambiguous assistant Rima (Joanna Moukarzel), age-obsessed actress Jamale (GisÃ¨le Aouad), and lonely seamstress Rose (Sihame Haddad). The inclusion of neighbors Youssef and Rose, who spends most of her time caring for a delusional sister, confirms Caramel's true subject as the city of Beirut. Aside from their reduced circumstances--Layale lives at home and shares a room with her brother--the central quartet echoes the tart-tongued professionals of Sex and the City (which makes Jamale the groupâ€™s Samantha). Before the bittersweet conclusion, each woman experiences a revelation of sorts. For Layale, it entails getting to know both her sympathetic rival and her secret admirer. Compared to most Western comedy-dramas, Caramel is as modest as the culture it depicts--Rima's attraction to women, for instance, is merely suggested--but Labaki's compassion for her characters redeems the sometimes-familiar situations. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
5 Pictures of Caramel (2007)
2 Poster Pictures of Caramel (2007)
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