May 20, 2024

Honeymoonish 2024 Movie Review

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Honeymoonish 2024 Movie Review

There’s a life cycle to most popular genres. It happened with crime films in the 1940s, Westerns in the 1950s, explosive action blockbusters in the 1990s, romantic comedies in the 2000s and superhero movies in the 2010s and beyond.

For each, at a certain point in time, everything just clicked. Films were coming off the assembly line at weekly clip, and audiences were running to them in droves. And then, seemingly overnight, tastes changed and everything fell apart.

When a genre collapses, it always seems like it will never come back, or that it can only be attempted from a completely new direction. James Bond had to be rewritten to the tune of Jason Bourne, for example. But when decades pass, a curious thing always seems to happen – the same ingredients that once tasted so stale suddenly seem fresh again, and the old formula is made new with surprisingly few updates.

That is the period we currently find ourselves in with romantic comedies. This year, after a decade in the doldrums, the romantic comedy has once again restored its place as a cultural mainstay, not to mention a major box office driver. In January, the Sydney Sweeney-starring film Anyone but You grossed a staggering $219 million. Lindsay Lohan’s Irish Wish drove millions of streams on Netflix and became the talk of the world.

And even in the Arabian Gulf, the same breezy style, bright lighting and lovingly contrived plot mechanics that served Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey so well in the mid-noughties are now set to elevate Arab actors Nour Al Ghandour (Egyptian, but has found her footing in Kuwaiti drama) and Mahmoud Boushahri (Kuwaiti) to even higher highs.

At first glance, Honeymoonish, which makes its debut on Netflix on Monday around the world and is directed by Lebanese filmmaker Elie El Semaan, could have starred the aforementioned American duo in 2003. In it, a young man and woman find themselves in separate desperate situations, in which the only solution they can find is to get married as soon as possible.

Boushahri plays Hamad, a young Kuwaiti businessman who’s gearing up for a major launch in the family business when his father pulls the rug out from under him. Because he hasn’t yet prioritised giving his father a grandchild, he is handed an ultimatum: either marry and impregnate a suitable woman within a month or lose your inheritance.

Al Ghandour plays Noor, a Kuwaiti woman who finds out that her boyfriend didn’t go to Lebanon for a business trip as he had told her – he secretly got married to another woman. Noor is now determined to marry someone as quickly as possible in order to travel to the same place her beloved is having his honeymoon to make him jealous.

It’s a tried and true conceit, and you’ll know where it’s going, not that you’ll mind. The formula is comforting, and it’s what the actors and writers do within structure that makes it fun.

With Honeymoonish, however, there are unique aspects that make it compelling, both for those intimately familiar with Gulf and Arab culture, and those who will be viewing it from afar thanks to Netflix’s global reach.

Take one particular wrinkle that pops up after the wedding. Hamad receives a call from his aunt, telling him that he may be forced to divorce his new bride. It’s possible that, when they were infants, Hamad’s mother breastfed Noor. In Islamic law, this would make them milk-siblings and their union would be forbidden.

Some of the ensuing antics get surprisingly racy for a regional film. At one point in that sequence, due to a certain medication mix up, it feels like we’ve jumped back to 1990s comedies such as There’s Something About Mary.

As novel at that is to see in Gulf content, this has also become a hallmark of Netflix’s Arabic-language originals, as their subject matter continues to flirt with cultural taboos, driven by regional creators who find themselves making content in an international system built with fewer constraints.

Every time those boundaries are pushed, it sparks a significant discussion on Arabic-speaking social media, sometimes reaching the levels of genuine backlash. But each time, the arguments settle down and a show such as Saudi Arabia’s Crashing Eid, which was initially criticised for a hug between an unmarried man and woman seen in the trailer, become enormous hits with long-lasting popularity.

The region, of course, continues to change. Some things that were forbidden ten years ago are now normalised, and in each country, Arab creatives are still navigating the waters of what is culturally acceptable as each culture reshapes itself.

In Honeymoonish, the performances are committed, the style watchable and the dialogue somewhat lively. Like Irish Wish, it will go down easily after a tired day and should generate high streaming numbers. But as a document of the current state of Gulf culture, it provides a lot more food for thought than it probably intended.

Honeymoonish 2024 Movie Review