Feature

Caramel

Caramel takes the basic premise of Steel Magnolias, uproots it from the U.S., and relocates it to Beirut, said Steven Rea in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Writer-director Nadine Labaki borrows the salon spirit of both that film and the more recent Beauty Sho

Caramel
Directed by Nadine Labaki (PG)

Friendships are formed over highlights and hairdos at a beauty shop in Beirut.

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Caramel takes the basic premise of Steel Magnolias, uproots it from the U.S., and relocates it to Beirut, said Steven Rea in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Writer-director Nadine Labaki borrows the salon spirit of both that film and the more recent Beauty Shop, delivering a warmhearted, personal tale about female “bonding and blow-drying.” The budding filmmaker casts herself as the salon owner and introduces four Lebanese women, all nonprofessional actors who prove surprisingly capable and plenty convincing. As the ladies share secrets between shampoos and waxing appointments, we learn about a culture “caught between East and West, between male chauvinism and female empowerment.” Caramel casually portrays a Lebanon in which Muslims and Christians are friends and violence and political strife go unmentioned, said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com. Under Labaki’s delicate hand, the film “sidles up against social issues that remain sensitive in that part of the world,” and she deserves “extra credit” for using actual Lebanese locations and actors to lend the film verisimilitude. But Caramel ultimately fails to distinguish itself from any other feel-good film. Labaki’s premise may hardly be new, but she makes Caramel seem fresh and irresistibly sweet, said John DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter. The director sneaks in a few surprises by not tying up every character’s loose ends, and she knows how to get “charming mileage out of each subplot.”

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