March 25, 2011

THE SHOWBUZZDAILY REVIEWS: “Miral,” “Potiche” and “Peep World”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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People have been accusing Julian Schnabel’s MIRAL of being propaganda for the Palestinian cause, but in a way that’s an insult to propagandists, who are usually focused and effective at what they do.  Miral is more of a mess than that, a no-doubt heartfelt story about one of the most historically complicated situations in the world.  Adapted for the screen by Rula Jebreal and based on her autobiographical novel, it tells the interconnected stories of four Palestinian women in a tale that extends through several generations.  Sometimes it presents Israelis as demons, sometimes as human beings; sometimes it appears to be sympathetic to terrorism, sometimes it rejects violence and hopes for negotiated peace.  It’s by far the weakest of Schnabel’s films as a director:  although the film looks great (photography by Eric Gautier) the narrative line wobbles and so do the performances:.  Frieda Pinto, as Miral, is only adequate, but Hiam Abbass, as the head of a Palestinian orphanage where Miral grows up, is outstanding.  Vanessa Redgrave makes a great-lady cameo, presumably to preserve her place as the fairy godmother of Palestianian-themed movies.   Watch It At Home.  (Weinstein Company – 112 min. – 4 Theatres)


Francois Ozon isn’t a household name, even among foreign film fans, but his films include notable works in an extremely varied set of genres.  They range from the genuinely horrifying thriller See the Sea to the aggressively offensive satire Sitcom, from the campy mystery/musical 8 Women to the moving character study Under the Sand.  His new POTICHE is a not-so-scintillating entry in his campy comedy resume.  It’s set in the 1970s, and concerns the respectable wife (Catherine Deneuve) of a chauvinistic factory magnate (Fabrice Luchini), who takes over the factory when he has a heart attack and liberates herself and many around her, including,among other things, through a romance with a local communist politician (Gerard Depardieu).  Also, there’s singing.  It’s mildly charming but very arch, and watching it, one has the feeling that it would take greater knowledge of French politics and films to get all the jokes.  Watch It At Home.  (Music Box – 103 min. – 7 Theatres)


Barry Blaustein’s PEEP WORLD, from a script by Peter Himmelstein, plays like a compendium of cliches about dysfunctional families.  There’s the seemingly respectable family man (Michael C Hall) with a sexual kink and his trying-to-be-supportive wife (Judy Greer), the brother who’s bitter about being an abject failure (Rainn Wilson), the wannabe-actress sister (Sarah Silverman), the tyrannical patriarch (Ron Rifkin) and long-suffering ex-wife (Lesley Anne Warren)–and of course the catalyst, the brother (Ben Schwartz) who’s written a tell-all book about the whole brood.  The only good thing one can say about it is that it’s sometimes a display of what good actors can do with shoddy material.  Not Even For Free. (IFC and VOD – 89 min. – 3 Theatres)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."