Lila Says ★★½

I can't believe I'm having to say this, but here is a public service announcement: if you're planning on giving somebody a handjob, do not do it while you're both riding on a moving bicycle. You will fall off.

Ziad Doueiri's first film, West Beirut, was like a Lebanese Mean Streets; the central female character in this follow-up raises expectations that this will be his Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More. It doesn't work, largely because of its source, a well-reviewed pseudonymous novella. That's written as a series of journal entries by "Chimo", the central character and credited author. Whatever appeal that has on paper doesn't translate to film. As Chimo, Moa Khouas isn't bad, but with only brief snatches of the novella's interior monologue he's frequently left with nothing to do other than raise his eyebrows as the title character talks about group sex a lot.

There are, I'm sure, some people who would roll their eyes at the idea that women's stories should be told from a woman's perspective, but that's not just a good idea from a political perspective. It's there to ensure the final act is led by the character who's actually experiencing the action, rather than the character who's pacing around uncomfortably while she talks about it. Vahina Giocante, again, isn't bad as Lila, but the mediation of all her experiences through Chimo leaves her character feeling less fascinating than she should be. Tellingly, her roles afterwards include a miniseries about Mata Hari and the title role in something called The Blonde With Bare Breasts, suggesting she has yet to escape playing male fantasy figures.

Doueiri has a real visual swagger; I loved his wide-angle pushes in and pulls back on establishing shots. But there is, at best, half a story in here, and I wanted to hear the whole thing.

Graham liked this review