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I am trying to get through this movie. Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira drew me in. They're both just so lovely to watch (both in terms of their acting ability and their fucking hot good looks). I am having trouble because of a few plot points.

1) Magical Negroes, or rather, Magical Negroes and Magical Arabs:
The story is of an old white economist who has lost his zest for life since his wife passed away. He is the most tightly wound person ever and they make sure that his whiteness is WHITE WHITE WHITE. Enter the young Muslim couple that he finds in his NYC apartment. After an altercation and some awkwardness, Tarek (the sexy, sexy, sexy Haaz Sleiman) apologizes and takes his Senegalese wife to find a place to live. It being an honest mistake, and the economist named Walter, offers them a place to stay until they make other arrangements. Tarek is a musician and generally very gregarious. He makes friends with Walter and begins to teach him the subltey of the drums and does things like take him to the park to play with all the African, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican musicians. Walter gets his groove back.

Zainab has her chance to be magical after her Syrian husband (Tarek) is arrested and placed into a detention center on suspicion of terrorism.

2) Zainab's Angry Black Woman
The reason that Zainab's magical negrosity is more pronounced is because of her angry black woman syndrome. She never smiles (there is a photo of her and Tarek looking into each other's eyes and grinning shown once), she's always scowling, being short or generally unpleasant. The thing is, the stuff she's reacting to is really very much the appropriate response that any PoC would have in the situation she's in-- she just has an absurdly non-chalant husband as a foil. She sells jewelry to make money and a white woman (who's whiteness is also SUPER EMPHASISED) purchases something from her. The woman asks her where she's from and she says "Senegal" to which the woman says "OMG!! I WAS IN CAPETOWN LAST SUMMER!!! IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL THERE!!" the movie is helpful at telling you that Zainab's scowl is appropriate because the Israeli guy next to her asks her "So, how far from Senegal is Capetown?" to which she responds with a wry smile "Oh, 8000 kilometers." But the movie isn't helpful anywhere else. She asks her husband to not be on Arab time in getting something done for her and Walter comments that she doesn't know what 'beloved one (habibti)" means. When Tarek drinks wine, she scowls and is made to seem prudish (although Tarek explains that she's a very devout Muslim and he's not nearly as religious as her). When it turns out that the guy who has rented an apartment to she and her husband is a con artist, she is shown as unyielding. When Walter walks in on her in the bathtub, and she's suspisicous of him ever after, she is shown as unsociable.

The Angry Black Woman is such an uninteresting and unoriginal plot device, I can barely make it through the movie in more than 25 minute increments. I know they're setting her up for the relationship that unfolds with Walter when Tarek is detained (he is pulled by the NYPD for jumping a turnstyle and then they find out he's from Syria, they imprison him), but I'm so sick of it. Seriously? If my irresponsible (but sexy, sexy, sexy) husband had created this situation (and to be sure, if he wasn't on Arab time, he wouldn't have been arrested) I might not be all sunshine and kittens either. And sharing an apartment rent free with some uber repressed white dude who's walked in on me in the shower and made random sexualized comments because my husband hangs with shady people? I might even hit something. I'm annoyed by her representation as angry for the sake of angry-- as though she's irrational and too wound up to smell the roses (and free the repressed sould of Walter, the white guy as her husband does).

3) Injustice
There's a reason I've never seen the Color Purple all the way through-- it is because I am not a fan of injustice for the sake of entertainment. Even where it is not real. Even where everything is fiction. Even where the end is redeeming, even where everything is set right, it makes me uncomfortable. I see plenty of injustice around me and don't need to go seeking it on film to entertainmyself. The railroading of (sexxy, sexxy, sexxy) Tarek and the emotional trauma surrounding the three of them (really, Gurira and Seilman have SUCH amazing chemistry-- their emotions are palpable and jump off the screen and grab you by the throat) is almost too much to take.



So that's my pre-review review.

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misadventure_lad

October 2010

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