European films

Some Like It Veiled film review: cross-dressing romantic farce falls short

Iranian documentary director Sou Abadi takes on social issues linked to radicalised Muslims, but her first feature film misses the chance to deliver a message of empowerment for women

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 9:02pm

2/5 stars

Primarily known for her controversial documentary SOS Tehran (2002), Iranian filmmaker Sou Abadi’s first narrative feature is not the hard-hitting drama one might have expected. Instead, Some Like It Veiled is a cross-cultural, cross-dressing romcom, tackling volatile social issues while paying homage to classic Hollywood farce.

Leila (Camélia Jordana) is a French-born Muslim student, studying political science in Paris. She is preparing to leave for New York with her similarly minded boyfriend, Armand (Félix Moati), when her older brother Mahmoud (William Lebghil) returns home from an extended trip to Yemen. Much to everyone’s horror, Mahmoud has been radicalised, and proceeds to break up Leila’s relationship and impose strict sharia traditions on the household.

Armand, the son of Iranian radicals protesting Islamic rule in their own country, is determined to stay with Leila. Donning a traditional hijab shawl, he masquerades as her tutor, Schéhérazade. While this allows the lovers to steal romantic moments together, the overly devout “Schéhérazade” soon draws the unwanted advances of Mahmoud.

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As the English title suggests, Abadi’s film evokes Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, as Armand’s Shakespearean drag act induces Mahmoud’s oblivious infatuation. But what starts as a simple comedy of errors soon becomes uncomfortable, as Mahmoud’s misplaced affection becomes the butt of every joke.

France and Iran, as well as numerous other nations, have felt the sharp end of Islamic fundamentalism in recent years, while disabling, misogynistic beliefs have no place in modern society. In Some Like It Veiled, however, Leila isn’t empowered to address her familial dispute; rather, it is ultimately left to the male, non-Muslims around her to fight her cause.

Some Like It Veiled opens on June 28

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