You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Whatever Lola Wants

An American woman travels to Cairo to find a former love but ends up pursuing a passion for belly dancing and discovering her true self.

With: Laura Ramsey, Achmed Akkabi, Assad Bouab, Carmen Lebbos, Hicham Rostom. (English, Arabic dialogue)

In the sweet-natured comic drama “Whatever Lola Wants,” a naive American woman travels to Cairo to find a former love but ends up pursuing a passion for belly dancing and discovering her true self. In his English-language debut, Paris-based Moroccan helmer Nabil Ayouch (“Mektoub,” “Ali Zaoua”) aims to provide a corrective to Mideast-set Hollywood pics full of bloodshed and bombs, but ends up relying on some other stereotypes instead. However, despite a considerable number of cringe-inducing moments early on, the sheer brio of the heroine’s cross-cultural antics will win over auds by the end.

Set for an April opening in Paris, “Lola” also reportedly had several Mideast suitors after its Dubai fest world preem.

A perky, petite blonde from Wisconsin, 25-year-old Lola (Laura Ramsey, like a younger Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones” mode) spends mornings as a temporary New Yorks postal worker and rushes to auditions and dance classes in the afternoons. Evenings are spent with best friend Yussef (Achmed Akkabi), an Egyptian waiter who comes off as a gay cliche.

Another Egyptian enters her life in the form of hunky MBA student Zach (Assad Bouab) whose Fifth Avenue penthouse just happens to be on her delivery route. Wooing her with some stock dialogue (“You have the eyes and face of a gazelle”), he also provides the proverb that becomes pic’s main lesson: the greater one’s desire, the more one finds strength.

When Zach unexpectedly returns to Cairo, Lola impulsively gives chase, only to discover romance is an altogether different thing in the Middle East. As one character astutely comments, “When a European is in love, he gets married. When an Arab is in love, he marries someone else.”

Enraptured by Cairo, Lola decides to track down legendary dancer Ismahan (Carmen Lebbos) and ask for lessons. But Ismahan now lives as a recluse, her career ended after an extramarital affair.

Pic’s most engaging moments come from the dance scenes: Lola trying out her moves at a sleazy nightclub, making a first pro appearance before 600 guests at a glitzy wedding and, finally, making a triumphant run onstage at the storied Nile Tower.

Ramsey, a real-life Midwesterner but with no dance experience, spent six months in the Mideast training for her role. As characters keep noting, “she’s pretty good — for an American,” which translates to not exactly the real thing.

After a low-budget look for New York, the later scenes (with Morocco mostly standing in for Egypt) teem with life and texture. Talented Arab cast, assembled from all over the region, registers well in English. Lebanese Lebbos, in particular, makes a strong and dignified impression.

Apart from Lola’s ridiculous attire of knickers and boots as she explores Cairo streets, rest of tech package is fine.

Whatever Lola Wants


Production: A Pathe Renn production, in association with Les Films du Nouveau Monde. (International sales: Pathe, Paris.) Executive producer, Pierre Grunstein. Produced by Jake Eberts. Directed by Nabil Ayouch. Screenplay, Nathalie Saougeon, Jane Hawksley, Ayouch.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Vincent Mathias; editor, Herve de Luze; music, Krishna Levy; additional music, TransGlobal Underground, Natacha Atlas; production designer, Pierre-François Limbosch; sound (Dolby SRD), Thomas Desjonqueres; associate producer, Leonard Glowinski; casting, Mindy Marin, Donna DeSeta. Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (Gala), Dec. 10, 2007. Running time: 110 MIN.

With: With: Laura Ramsey, Achmed Akkabi, Assad Bouab, Carmen Lebbos, Hicham Rostom. (English, Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • Q&A With Juan Villegas on ‘Las

    Argentina’s Juan Villegas on ‘Las Vegas,’ Featuring at Cannes’ ACID

    CANNES – Buenos Aires’ director-producer Juan Villegas presented his debut “Saturday” at the Venice Festival and won awards at the Rotterdam and Sarajevo film festivals. “Suicidals” screened at San Sebastián. “Idleness,” his third feature, co-directed with Alejando Lingenti, screened at the Berinale. Produced by Salvador del Solar at Argentina’s Cepa Audiovisual and by Villegas’ production [...]

  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Kenneth Branagh

    Christopher Nolan's New Film Casts Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Kenneth Branagh

    Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Kenneth Branagh will appear in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, “Tenet.” Clémence Poésy, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine are also joining the cast that includes John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, and Robert Pattinson. “Tenet,” which is being filmed on location across seven countries, is an action epic evolving from the world of international espionage. [...]

  • Cannes Placeholder Red Carpet

    Eddie Peng, Ma Sichun Join Ann Hui's 'Love After Love'

    Eddie Peng (“Operation Mekong” “The Hidden Man”) will head the cast of “Love After Love” the new film by Hong Kong’s Ann Hui. He plays opposite Ma Sichun (“The Shadow Play,” “Soul Mate”). The picture, which started shooting on Wednesday in China, is the story of a young woman from Shanghai who travels to Hong [...]

  • 'Matthias & Maxime' Review: Xavier Dolan's

    Cannes Film Review: 'Matthias & Maxime'

    If there’s one term that Xavier Dolan probably never wants or needs to hear again, it’s “enfant terrible.” Irresistible to use when the Québécois auteur was 19, rattling out of the gate with his antsy, angry lash-out of a debut, “I Killed My Mother,” it’s followed him doggedly through a series of variously spiky, variably [...]

  • Cannes: Agoraphobia Drama '522' Sells to

    Cannes: Agoraphobia Comedy-Drama '522' Sells to South Korea (EXCLUSIVE)

    Media Luna New Films has sold South Korean rights for comedy-drama “522. A Cat, a Chinese Guy and My Father” to Laon-I at Cannes. The film tells the story of George, an agoraphobic young woman who can’t walk more than 522 steps from her home. One day, her cat forces her to embark on a [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' to Soar Above Box Office Competition Over Memorial Day Weekend

    When Disney first released “Aladdin” in 1992, Bill Clinton was just settling in to the Oval Office, “Game of Thrones” wasn’t much more than a book idea percolating in the mind of author George R.R. Martin, and Johnny Carson was wrapping up his stint as “Tonight Show” host. In some ways, 2019 feels like a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content