You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Just Like a Woman’

An inauspicious beginning to Rachid Bouchareb's planned trilogy about America and the Arab world.

Sienna Miller, Golshifteh Farahani, Bahar Soomekh, Tim Guinee, Roschdy Zem, Chafia Boudraa, Jesse Bob Harper. (English dialogue)

“Thelma & Louise” gets a bland cross-cultural update in “Just Like a Woman,” the inauspicious first entry in French-Algerian helmer Rachid Bouchareb’s planned trilogy tackling changing relations between America and the Arab world. Although fronted by solid performances from Sienna Miller and Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani as two desperate souls who bond over their shared love of belly dancing, this tale of friendship and rebellion on the open road reps a thin, obvious reworking of a well-worn template. Bouchareb’s films (“Days of Glory,” “Outside the Law”) have never enjoyed much of a Stateside following, and despite its American setting, this one is unlikely to break the mold.

As a tale of two worlds colliding, “Just Like a Woman” has a few parallels with Bouchareb’s 2009 drama “London River,” which threw together an Englishwoman and an African man against its titular English backdrop. In this initially Chicago-set story, the central relationship is between two decent but embattled women: Marilyn (Miller), a local with a keen interest in belly dancing, and Mona (Farahani), an Egyptian-born immigrant whose husband, Mourad (Roschdy Zem), owns a convenience store where Marilyn regularly shops.

Editor Yannick Kergoat cuts back and forth between the two women as the script (by Joelle Touma, Marion Doussot and Bouchareb) dutifully lays out their stifling circumstances. Abruptly laid off during a recession low point, Marilyn returns home early to find her loser husband (Jesse Bob Harper) in bed with another woman. Mona, meanwhile, has yet to bear Mourad any children and is thus relentlessly abused by her overbearing mother-in-law (Chafia Boudraa). From a viewer standpoint, the old hag pretty much gets what’s coming to her when Mona, in a fit of agitation, accidentally mixes up the woman’s medication with fatal results.

Fearful of getting arrested, Mona goes on the run and almost immediately runs into Marilyn, fleeing her own sorry existence. Mona decides to accompany her on a road trip down to Sante Fe, where Marilyn plans to pursue her dreams and enter a belly-dancing contest. Along the way they make money performing at clubs, Mona being no slouch in the dance department herself, and gradually they build a friendship that will be tested along the way by uncovered secrets as well as unpredictable outside forces.

Its Bob Dylan-referencing title aside, “Just Like a Woman” doesn’t push the feminist-empowerment angle too hard. Nor, despite an unpleasant encounter with some small-minded fellow travelers, does the film devolve into a tract on the challenges of being an Arab woman in a hostile Western world. It doesn’t do anything, really, except meander along in a mildly pleasant if seldom persuasive manner: Beyond their superficial similarities (weak husbands) and differences (take a guess), Marilyn and Mona haven’t been sufficiently individuated as characters to render their journey of discovery particularly meaningful to an audience of outsiders. Nor do they especially reward the talents of Miller and Farahani, both of whom nonetheless bring conviction and strong emotional shadings to their underwritten roles.

Christophe Beaucarne’s lovely widescreen lensing of U.S. desert backdrops is the standout contribution in a capable tech package.

Film Review: 'Just Like a Woman'

Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Beverly Hills, June 28, 2013. (In Seattle Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.

Production: (U.S.-France-U.K.) A Cohen Media Group (in U.S.) release and presentation, in association with Jean Brehat and Rachid Bouchareb, of a Taghit production, in association with Doha Film Institute, Minerva Pictures Group, the 7th Floor, and Arte France, 3B Prods., the Bureau, Tassili Films, in association with Artificial Eye, with the participation of the CNC. Produced by Brehat, Charles S. Cohen, Allen Bain. Executive producer, Muriel Merlin. Co-producers, Bertrand Faivre, Matthieu De Braconier, Gianluca Curti, Francesca Manno, Jesse Scolaro.

Crew: Directed by Rachid Bouchareb. Screenplay, Joelle Touma, Marion Doussot, Bouchareb, based on a story by Bouchareb. Camera (color, widescreen), Christophe Beaucarne; editor, Yannick Kergoat; music, Eric Neveux; production designer, Petra Barchi; costume designers, Mahemitie Deregnaucourt, Laura Darner; sound, Jean-Yves Munch, Oliver Walczak, Sebastien Wera, Thomas Gauder; assistant director, Mathieu Schiffman; casting, David O'Connor, Kathryn Brink, Justine Leocadie.

With: Sienna Miller, Golshifteh Farahani, Bahar Soomekh, Tim Guinee, Roschdy Zem, Chafia Boudraa, Jesse Bob Harper. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • DF-10689_R2_CROP – Sophie Turner and Jessica

    'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' Set for June 6 China Release

    “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” will officially swoop into Chinese theaters June 6, a day before its U.S. release, 20th Century Fox said Thursday. The studio had put out a trailer last fall that touted a Feb. 14 release date for the new X-Men installment, but said a day later that the premiere had been pushed back [...]

  • 'The Apollo' Review: A Legendary Theater

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Apollo'

    You should never take for granted a documentary that fills in the basics with flair and feeling. Especially when the basics consist of great big gobs of some of the most revolutionary and exhilarating popular art ever created in this country. Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo,” which kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival on [...]

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content