Saturday, January 14, 2012

21. CAIRO TIME (2009)

This film by Canadian writer-director Ruba Nadda is synopsized everywhere as the story of a love affair that unexpectedly occurs in Cairo when the American wife (Patricia Clarkson) of a busy United Nations worker spends a little too much time with one of his Muslim co-workers (Alexander Siddig) who is asked to entertain her until the husband can join her. More accurately, it is the story of an attraction that occurs between two adults who show restraint and choose not to venture beyond one awkward, half-accidental kiss.

Clarkson is a wonderful actress, especially when the material she chooses stretches her in surprising directions -- I was especially fond of the aging, free-spirited hippie aunt she played on HBO's SIX FEET UNDER -- but this role doesn't require to do much more than wait, smile wanly, walk and preen. The Cairo scenery, of course, is spectacular but almost nothing dramatic happens within that scenery; we see the wife and her escort walk through bazaars, smoke hookahs, sail the Nile, sip what we're assured is the best coffee in Egypt, sit on the pyramids and attend a wedding. At times I felt I was watching a kind of middle-age version of LOST IN TRANSLATION set in Egypt, but in this case we hear what Bill Murray may have whispered to Scarlett Johansson: Clarkson tells Siddig she's going to miss him. This felt to me like a fantasy film for a certain kind of untravelled, untested woman who feels lonely and yearns to be noticed. CAIRO TIME may be a nice, wistful tonic for them, but it didn't do anything for me.

Viewed on The Movie Channel On Demand.

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