Honeymoonish Review "A Kuwaiti film on Netflix"

Honeymoonish Review "A Kuwaiti film on Netflix"

A life cycle is present in most popular genres. Crime films from the 1940s, Westerns from the 1950s, high-octane action blockbusters from the 1990s, romantic comedies from the 2000s, and superhero flicks from the 2010s and later all experienced this.

For each, everything just clicked at a particular moment. Every week, movies were being released from the assembly line, and people were lining up to see them. And then everything fell apart as if by magic; tastes changed overnight.

When a genre dies, it always seems as though it will never survive or that the only way to try it again would be to take a whole different approach. For example, James Bond had to be rewritten to the style of Jason Bourne.

However, a strange phenomenon always seems to occur when decades go by: the same ingredients that once tasted so stale suddenly seem fresh again, and the outdated formula is given a modern makeover with surprisingly few changes.

That's the era of romantic comedies that we're in right now. After a decade in decline, the romantic comedy has made a comeback this year, serving as both a significant box office draw and a cultural mainstay. The film Anyone but You, starring Sydney Sweeney, brought in an incredible $219 million at the box office in January. Irish Wish, a Netflix video featuring Lindsay Lohan, garnered millions of views and became a global sensation.

Even across the Arabian Gulf, Arab actors Nour Al Ghandour (Egyptian, but has found her footing in Kuwaiti drama) and Mahmoud Boushahri (Kuwaiti) are poised to reach even greater heights thanks to the same breezy style, bright lighting, and lovingly contrived plot mechanics that served Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey so well in the mid-noughties.

On the surface, the Lebanese director Elie El Semaan's Honeymoonish, which premieres globally on Netflix on Monday, appears to have been a 2003 film starring the previously mentioned American couple. In it, a young man and woman discover that getting married as soon as possible is the only way out of their respective dire circumstances.

Hamad, a young Kuwaiti businessman who is preparing for a significant launch in the family business when his father pulls a fast one, is played by Boushahri. An ultimatum is given to him because he hasn't made having a grandchild for his father a priority yet: get married and get pregnant with a suitable woman within a month or lose your inheritance.

Al Ghandour portrays Noor, a Kuwaiti woman who learns that her boyfriend, who had claimed to be going to Lebanon on a business trip, actually married someone else in secret. Now that her beloved is on his honeymoon, Noor is determined to marry as soon as possible to make him jealous by going to the same location.

You'll know where it's headed, which is a tried-and-true conceit—not that you'll mind. The formula is reassuring, and the fun comes from what the writers and actors do within the parameters.

But Honeymoonish has some special elements that make it interesting for viewers who aren't familiar with Gulf and Arab culture as well as for those who will be watching it from a distance because of Netflix's global reach.

Consider a specific wrinkle that appears following the nuptials. Hamad's aunt calls to inform him that he might have to get a divorce from his new bride. It is possible that Noor was breastfed by Hamad's mother when they were babies. This would make them milk siblings under Islamic law, and their union would be illegal.

A few of the subsequent shenanigans are unexpectedly sensual for a small-town movie. There's a scene in that sequence where, because of a medication error, we feel as though we've stepped back into a 1990s comedy like There's Something About Mary.

While this is new in Gulf content, it has also become a defining characteristic of Netflix's Arabic-language original productions, whose themes continue to toy with cultural taboos. These productions are led by local creators who find themselves producing content in a global system that is less restrictive.

Every time those limits are crossed, there's a big conversation on Arabic-speaking social media about it, sometimes even to the point of real anger. However, the arguments eventually come to an end, and shows like Crashing Eid in Saudi Arabia—which at first drew criticism for featuring an unmarried man and woman hugging in the trailer—become huge hits with enduring appeal.


Naturally, the area is still changing. Certain things that were taboo ten years ago have become the norm, and Arab creatives are still negotiating the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in each nation as their respective cultures shift.

The acting in Honeymoonish is devoted, the writing likable, and the conversation moderately animated. Similar to Irish Wish, it should generate high streaming numbers and go down easily after a long day. However, it offers far more food for thought as a record of Gulf culture today than it likely intended.

The amusing thing about formula is that. When used in a fresh way, even the most enduring clich├ęs seem fresh.

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