[Metroactive Movies]

[ Movies Index | Show Times | Metro | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

Expressly Marrakech

[whitespace] Hideous Kinky
Flower Power: Kate Winslet revels in Bohemian pleasures in 'Hideous Kinky.'

Growing up Bohemian isn't easy in 'Hideous Kinky'

By Michelle Goldberg

NUANCED MOVIES about the perils and passions of motherhood are rare. Usually, all we get are psychoanalytic horror shows, sentimental weepies or featherweight screwball comedies. The empathetic relationship between a young mother and her two daughters alone makes Hideous Kinky worth seeing, as does its stunning early-'70s Morocco setting.

Luminous Kate Winslet stars as Julia, a 25-year-old who has fled dreary London and the philandering father of her two young daughters for an exotic, Bohemian life in Marrakech. The shots of the city are remarkable, all deeply saturated desert gem tones, roiling bazaars and labyrinthine alleys. We see much of Marrakech through the eyes of Julia's daughters, 6-year-old Lucy (Carrie Mullan) and 8-year-old Bea (Bella Riza). The jumble is sometimes overwhelming, especially when the camera plunges straight into a packed crowd so that you can almost feel the girls being jostled among the tangle of limbs and robes. Lucy and Bea mingle with street performers, play hopscotch in lush courtyards and turn somersaults on sumptuous carpets--in some ways, their life is a sensuous idyll, their mother more a playmate than an authority. Which is, of course, the problem.

What the girls really want is to be normal. "I don't need another adventure. I want to go to school!" cries Bea, who resents the vagabond waif role that her mother has cast her in. Like many children, she's essentially conservative and thrives on security. Lucy and Bea's attempts to make a father out of Julia's lover, Bilal (Saïd Taghmaoui), a street acrobat and ex-con, are especially poignant. Both world-weary and vulnerable, the girls are precocious without being obnoxious, and because in many ways their perceptions are the most reliable, it's easier to identify with them than with their mother. Julia loves her daughters fiercely, but she's also flaky and sometimes dangerously irresponsible. At times, Julia seems like an earnest version of Edina from Absolutely Fabulous, naively taken with Eastern mysticism. She moons over a Sufi sheik and espouses "the annihilation of the ego." When the girls watch in mortification as she joins in an ecstatic trance dance, our sympathies are with them--she looks ridiculous.

Winslet, however, never makes a mockery of her character. Julia is honestly trying to give her girls a magical childhood. It's hard not to admire the insouciant bravery with which she embraces the ideals of her time, even if in retrospect her hippie enthusiasms seem somewhat silly. Julia has admirably refused to surrender her adventurous spirit to the constraints of motherhood, and for all Lucy and Bea's confusion and anxiety, they often relish the freedom and richness of their lives, even if they don't realize it.

Julia's relationship with Bilal is particularly well done. At one point, the two are cavorting naked in bed when Lucy's tiny head pops up above. Instead of ordering her away, Julia pulls her into bed to snuggle with them. Right from the beginning of their affair, when Bilal can't grasp Julia's reasons for leaving a husband who didn't abuse her, one expects that their relationship will end with betrayal or insurmountable cultural differences. Bilal is himself such a nomad that it's easy to condemn Julia for putting trust in him. When he proves himself, it's a reminder that families thrive on openness and optimism even more than on rules and routines.

Hideous Kinky (R; 99 min.), directed by Gillies MacKinnon, written by Billy MacKinnon, based on the novel by Esther Freud, photographed by John de Borman and starring Kate Winslet, Saïd Taghmaoui, Bella Riza and Carrie Mullan.

[ San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the April 22-28, 1999 issue of Metro.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.