Rock the Casbah
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 5th October 2014
As far as films about death go, the delightful Rock the Casbah does a good job of keeping your spirits up while exploring the emotions which often surface when someone else’s spirit has recently departed.
A vibrant cast, all gorgeous whether in body or character, and the exoticism of a multi-lingual (French, Arabic and English) setting no doubt help. Set in Morocco, the story revolves around the rituals of the first three days following the passing of patriarch Moulay Hassan (if you’ve been wondering “whatever happened to Omar Sharif?” well, here he is). As family, friends and well-wishers descend on the palatial home, familial tribulations, unspoken jealousy and unsettled scores are unveiled.
Hassan’s three daughters are at the centre of the drama. The stunning Nadine Labaki (actress and director of Caramel) gets to sashay about, chugging Heinekens and pouting in self-centred disgruntlement, while her screen sister Lubna Azabal (best known for her incredible performance in Incendies) plays the uptight school teacher. Their New York-based actress sister (who is only ever cast as a terrorist) returns to Casablanca for the funeral, and inevitably tensions resurface.
This is only the second feature directed by the multi-talented Laila Marrakchi, who clearly knows how to write strong female characters as Sharif rightly sits back and watches the women’s melodrama. With swooping camerawork lit effortlessly by Moroccan sunshine, much of the movie’s charm is delivered by the eye candy of the lush furnishings and location. But the actresses certainly give it their all, delivering a romp that is mostly entertaining even if there are few surprises in the story, and it’s hard not to be swept along by their energy.