R (strong language, a scene of sexuality); 90 min.
A sort of multicultural Thelma & Louise on a slimmer budget, the heavy-handed Just Like a Woman , opening Friday, promises more than it delivers. But with two strong performances at its core, it still has its pleasures.
Sienna Miller is Marilyn, a working-class Chicago woman whos married to an unemployed loser but has dreams of becoming a professional belly dancer. She shares her hip-shaking interests with Mona (Golshifteh Farahani), a North African immigrant who works in the nearby market with her husband. Her marriage is threatened by an overbearing, traditionalist Muslim mother-in-law who lives with them.
Marilyn and Mona end up on the lam together after a bit of serendipitous contrivance, and they head west to Santa Fe. The problem with the film, directed by Frances Rachid Bouchareb from a script by Joelle Touma and Marion Doussot, is that the men are mostly one-dimensional louts.
The exception is Monas husband, Mourad (Roschdy Zem), who is old-fashioned in some respects but willing to compromise.
Miller and Farahani have an undeniable chemistry, their belly dancing is convincing and the Southwestern desert landscapes are gorgeous. However, not much happens on their journey of discovery that couldnt be predicted from the outset.
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