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Hideous Kinky (DVD)

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  • Boring as hell
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      07.03.2010 20:55
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      Visually good, but little story

      In the 60s, Julia, recently separated from her poet husband, travels to Morocco to find the answers to life, taking her two daughters, Lucy and Bea, along with her for the ride. The only problem is that Julia doesn't have much money, and relies on pay-outs from her ex-husband, which unfortunately don't come on a regular basis, and the occasional job. When she meets Bilal, a local man, things seem to look up, but he proves to be as useless as she is at earning money. A trip takes them out of Marrakech, to help Julia with her study of Sufism, but it is soon clear that their lack of money means that they could find themselves in serious danger. Will she find what she is looking for, or will she return home unfulfilled? More importantly, will her children remain safe?

      Kate Winslet plays Julia and is good in the role. Julia is a complicated character. On the one hand, she is very naive, and seems unaware of the problems that face a woman with two children travelling - making her seem very selfish. On the other, she has a real thirst for knowledge and obviously has a deep love for her children, although at times, it seems that her children are the ones who are looking after her - despite their young age. Kate Winslet manages to portray all this without making her character completely dislikeable - although it is touch and go at times. There were times when Julia's treatment of her children is horrendous and it feels that she is just too young to have the responsibility. Nevertheless, I wanted her to do well and find what she needed - perhaps because of my own time living abroad I could see something of myself in her. Bilal is played by Saïd Taghmaoui and is one of the highlights of the film for me. Although he is hopeless at looking after Julia and her daughters, he is very alive, and his presence really stands out in every scene he is in.

      The film is based on the book of the same name, by Esther Freud, which I have read. Although the story is much the same, the book was narrated by the youngest daughter, Lucy, whereas inthe film, Julia is very much the main character. Nevertheless, the two young girls who play Bea and Lucy, Bella Riza and Carrie Mullan, are both very good. I particularly liked Carrie Mullan - Lucy is just five years old and seems exactly that, very playful and happy just to be with her mother. Bea, at seven, is much more sensible - way too sensible (and just a little bit precocious) for such a young child, but it is clear that this is exactly as she has be in order to cope with her mother and their lifestyle. Some of the best scenes show the two girls playing together just as two such little girls should, jumping on the bed and dancing around. Seeing them trying to stop their mother from behaving too badly is rather painful.

      The film is based on a very odd story. It is supposedly based on Esther Freud's own experiences of travelling with her family as a child, and certainly it seems as if it couldn't possibly have been made up. It often seems as though there is no point to it at all - and is often upsetting because of the danger that Julia seems to get herself and her children into. Then there is a real backdrop of hippy love and drugs, with many of the other foreigners that Julia comes across in Marrakech apparently stoned out of their minds much of the time. Julia has a series of dreams in which she is searching for Bea, out of her mind with worry, while Bea seems to be taunting her from afar. It is never clear why these dreams are occurring and it certainly isn't explained - possibly Julia is also on drugs or perhaps the dreams are representing the fact that Julia has lost her way in life and is trying to find out where to turn next.

      The best part of the film for me was the location. Although the places in which Julia and her children are forced to live are not always the most hygienic, they are nevertheless fascinating to see. I loved the Marrakech scenes, particularly the busy market places and restaurants. Director Gillies MacKinnon did a great job of showing how people lived and spent their time - I really enjoyed the way that the camera scanned up from the middle of their courtyard apartment block to show how Julia's neighbours lived. We also occasionally got to see some grander buildings, in the form of mosques that Julia visited and a grand house that they stay in temporarily. The scenes that are filmed outside Marrakech are less attractive - mainly desert, appalling roads and stray camels that wander around at will.

      The ending, when it comes, falls rather flat, because it doesn't really seem to achieve anything, and this is ultimately what most people will find disappointing about the film. Nothing is resolved, ends aren't neatly tied up and the general feeling that I had throughout the film, that there is little point to the story, prevails. On the other hand, it is supposedly based on someone's life and life doesn't have neat and tidy ends, nor does it always seem like it has a point. As a piece of entertainment, it perhaps doesn't work too well, but I did find it thought-provoking. The background music is entertaining too, with hits such as On the Road Again, Here Comes the Sun, Somebody to Love and A Horse With No Name.

      There are no extras with the DVD, so this is a film only review.

      On the whole, I think that the director did a reasonable job of transferring the book onto the screen, but this isn't a film that is going to appeal to everyone. I've seen the film two or three times over the years and still enjoy watching it, largely because of my backpacking experience and the travel bug that I still have. For those who are looking for a story with a proper beginning, middle and end and a point to it, it probably isn't going to hit the mark. This is also not a film to watch because you are a fan of Kate Winslet - her role here is quite unlike anything else she has done. Recommended, but with reservations. Three stars out of five.

      The DVD is available from play.com for 8.98.

      Classification: 15 (for Kate's naked breasts)

      Running time: 98 minutes

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      • More +
        08.02.2010 00:23
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        Not recommended

        I really enjoyed the book by Esther Freud that this film is based upon however like so many film adaptions of books this one failed to live up to my expectations and was a rather disappointing drama.

        The film stars Kate Winslett as Julia who sets out with her two daughters on a voyage of discovery on a trip to Morocco, the lead character is not a very likeable person as she is rather selfish and she is hardly a role model of a mother. She starts an affair with a man called Bilal played by Said Taghmaoui who like Julia is rather self centered and drifting through life. The two daughters are Bea and Lucy played by Bella Riza and Carrie Mullan respectively and for two girls so young I was quite impressed with their performances and they certainly held their own alongside Winslet and Taghmaoui who performed well together.

        There is a disjoined feel to the film and perhaps this is due to the attempt to cover the major events in the book however it fails to deliver, visually it is fine and does a good job of showing the varied nature of Morocco which looks a lovely country.

        The film is rather dull and does not really recreate the tension that ran through the book and this is a shame really as the book deserved better. Not a film I would recommend and certainly not at the £6.99 that Amazon want for it.

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          02.02.2010 22:50
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          Disappointing drama about a single mother and her two girls trying to start a new life in Morocco

          Hideous Kinky is a film about exploration, discovery, and a bit of love thrown in for good measure. Set in the 1970s in Morocco, it follows single mother Julia and her two daughters Bea and Lucy as they seek to discover a new way of life.

          Based on the novel by Esther Freud, written in 1992, this 1998 film showed a bit of promise from reading the brief synopsis and judging by the two leads. Kate Winslet plays Julia, and while she has played some excellent roles in the past, she also manages to play some stinkers, too, and this seemed to me to be one of them. Julia is a very self-centred woman, and some of the acts she does are very unbecoming a mother. She seems away with the fairies one moment, and then having loads of fun with the girls the next. She adopts Islam and this is just one of the major changes in her life. None of it seems to sit very well and the film doesn't flow as a result of her erratic character. You might say this is more the character than Winslet's acting, but even so, I didn't think it was that good in this film.

          Julia starts an affair with an equally down on his luck, directionless man called Bilal. He is played by Said Taghmaoui. He has had a few really good roles over the years, most notably his performance as a Parisian delinquent in La Haine. However, much like Winslet, his role here is just rather confusing and all over the place. Constantly jovial yet with no direction or point to any of his actions, I found his performance was okay, but didn't really impress me in the slightest.

          In fact, the two who show that there is some decent acting to be are Bella Riza and Carrie Mullan, who play Bea and Lucy. The 8 year old girls are very good in their roles, and it must have been hard for them at times, as the film does deal with some tense and harrowing moments.

          There is some tension at times, particularly as we see Julia struggle in a foreign country, trying to make a new start, with two young girls. There is a lack of financial support from the girls' father, and at times we see the award winning Winslet's real ability shine through. However, it's almost as if she is trying too hard to vitalise an otherwise dull plot.

          And this is the main problem. Below par acting can sometimes be supplemented by a decent plot, but in this case, the story is just so dull. There is little to entertain for the majority of the film, and aside from a scene involving one of the girls going missing and the resultant effects on everyone, there is little of any interest. It is almost as if someone has just taken a snippet of someone's life without stopping to wonder whether anyone else would find it interesting.

          The scenery is rather beautiful, offering some landscape views and impressive cinematography, and the film does have effective visuals. It's also very colourful, never dropping into a bland and dull visual, despite this being the case of the actual story the film gives us. I'm not sure whether this is also a fair reflection of the book it is based on. I can't comment as I haven't read it.

          Nor did I understand what the title was on about. Apparently, it is explained in the book as being a game that the girls play, but in the film it's more like something the girls say to each other, without explanation. It's certainly an appealing title, though, to say the least.

          Overall, I found this a disappointing film. The plot was dull, and despite some efforts, the majority of the acting was unimpressive. Hideous Kinky is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £6.99. Not a price I would pay, but then, it's not a film I would recommend even with a lower price.

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            13.10.2009 11:29
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            I'm glad this was FREE with a Sunday paper

            Hideous Kinky was adapted from a book of the same name which was written by Esther Freud (grand-daughter of Sigmud Freud) and published in 1992. The novel was based on the author's real life experience of living in Morocco as a child and in the film the story is told from the eyes of Lucy, the younger daughter. The film was released in 1998 and was directed by Gillies MacKinnon.


            Julia moves out to Morocco in the 1970s with 6 year old Lucy and 8 year old Bea, her daughters. Her estranged husband, a writer/poet is rather erratic with sending her child support payments so Julia, in fact, more often than not, he sends nothing so Julia has to struggle for money to survive. She is trying to "find herself" and is exploring Sufism and meets a street performer Bilal who she falls into a relationship with. He's as bad as her at making a living so they wander from place to place with no real direction. Their money problems get worse and worse and then Julia has to face a real dilemma when tragedy strikes and she has to make some big life-changing decisions. Does she make the right decision? Does Julia find the answers she wants before it's too late?


            I'll admit up front that I was not enamoured by this film. I disliked the character of Julia (Kate Winslett) intensely from the start of the film; that might have been the writer's intention, I'm not sure but I really wanted to punch her in the face and tell her to stop being such a selfish cow and bloody well grow up and take some responsibility for herself and for her children. She spends parts of the film fawning about and whining that her husband hasn't sent any money for them and insisting that the bank must have made a mistake about the money not having arrived (the husband sounds as irresponsible as her) and unable to hold down any kind of job herself for more than five minutes. She's not averse to taking money from anyone who'll support her for any period of time yet she wants to explore the meaning of life and goes off to Algiers to study "the annihilation of the ego" with a Sufi master. I didn't find Winslett's acting much to talk about but I did think the two little girls who played her daughters were absolutely superb. I may be one of the few people who's seen Titanic that was not unduly impressed with Winslett's performance but I really hated her performance in Hideous Kinky.

            Lucy is played delightfully by Carrie Mullan, she is so cute and even as a 6 year old she seems far more mature than her wannabe hippy mother. Bea, played perfectly by Bella Rizza is far too grown up for her age, some might say precocious but I felt she displayed enormous strength of character for one so young and that she had to grow up so fast due to her mother being an immature idiot. Bea wants to go to school to be educated and Julia tells her she doesn't really need to but if she really wants to, well, why not go? Bea tells her that she needs to wear the basic white shirt and skirt and shoes to even attend school and Julia can barely scrape the money together to buy these. Just a short while after Bea starts attending school Julia decides they're going off with Bilal to his village to meet his family and Bea doesn't want to go as she'll miss school. Julia's character just seems interested in her own needs and whims and there are scenes when she's having sex with Bilal and Lucy walks in and she doesn't seem to be very bothered. Ok, it was the hippy era and all that, but Julia just came across as a really bad mother all round. She wants to find herself but she won't provide for her own daughters. She drags them around like they're excess baggage and does not seem in the least worried about what's good for them or their happiness. I thought it was awful when she left Bea behind with some relative strangers and was not at all surprised when she came back to collect her (it's not clear how many weeks or months later this was) that her daughter was no longer there and she has to go hunting from place to place to find her and eventually finds her at an orphanage where she seems to have been brainwashed by the devout Christian who runs it.

            The character of Bilal, the street performer and small-time con man, is played wonderfully by Said Taghmaoui. I've never seen him in any other film and found him to be very good looking and extremely credible in the role. For much of the film, you don't know if he's really a good or bad guy at heart, but it is evident from early on that he adores Julia and her kids. When they go to his village it is evident that he's already married to someone else but Julia, who doesn't speak the local language, seems oblivious to this fact or doesn't care, due to her having taken on Islam as her religion and also due to the fact that she is completely self-absorbed for pretty much the whole film.

            Much of the scenery in the film makes Morocco look rather bleak. I found nothing inspiring about it whatsoever and if anything, if put me off every visiting the country. I didn't like any of the traditions portrayed during the film, especially a dance ritual that men and women were doing which they carried on doing until they collapsed and had to be carried away. I thought it was barbaric and Julia watches this with her daughters, completely entranced and eventually gets up to join in herself, much to the dismay of her children who seem quite scared by this. Along with some very odd behaviour from the supposed grown-ups in the film we have Julia's random creepy dream sequences in the film none of which are explained and I really couldn't understand if these dreams were the results of taking hallucinogenic drugs or not.

            During the film Julia meets an old acquaintance of her husband who seems quite well to do and who invites her to go and stay with him for a while. As they enter the palatial like home, we hear the daughter say to each other that they hope she doesn't beg for money. This is just another scene which shows how much pride the girls have and how little their mother has.

            A lot is made of following the local culture during the film. We don't see England at all during the film although there are a lot of references made to London, and from Julia, not in very nice ways. Julia felt stifled by London life so she dragged her young daughters off to Morocco. I saw nothing in the film which made me want to ever visit the country and if that's how people are supposed to "find themselves" I think I'll stay as lost as I might already be, thank you very much. I found the people of Morocco generally to be portrayed in a poor light, except for, perhaps, the few people that Julia hitch-hiked with during the film.
            I found the ending of the film quite satisfying in some ways but also saw it coming a mile off. It wasn't an exciting story overall nor an exciting ending, more it just seemed to meander through to an obvious conclusion. There was no great revelation, the romance between Julia and Bilal was quite bland, in fact, Bilal's relationship with her daughters was far more interesting and entertaining for me.

            I understand the meaning of "Hideous Kinky" is explained in the novel but there is no real explanation of this given in the film and it's just shown as a phrase the two girls use with one of them saying "Hideous" and then the other responding "Kinky"!?! I was left feeling rather depressed by the end of the film feeling it was a horrid story overall and thinking "I'm never watching that again!" As I've not read the book I can't tell how true the story in the film is to the novel but watching the film has even put me off trying the book.

            I'm trying to find something good to say about the film so here I can safely say that the soundtrack for the film was on the whole quite enjoyable. It included songs such as:

            * A Horse With No Name by America
            * Worlds they Rise and Fall by The Incredible String Band
            * Here Comes the Sun by Richie Havens
            * Alone Again Or by Love
            * Follow by Richie Havens
            * You Don't Have to Cry by Crosby Stills & Nash

            A Horse With No Name was particularly fun to listen to in this film and although it wasn't quite relevant to the scene it is played in as Julia and Lucy are travelling through the desert in blistering heat hitch-hiking and no horses were involved; it was fun for me to hear it during this boring 90+ minute film. There's quite an amusing side story during this song scene which involves a blond chap (presumably European) who can't speak English who is also hitch-hiking to Algiers at the same time as Julia and Bea and they help him out when he seems to get heatstroke, there's mostly music during these scenes but it's all in the visuals which are quite amusing and somewhat touching and he's really quite sad when they go their separate ways.


            Overall I'd rate this film as a below average of 2 stars out of 5 and those 2 stars are just for the performances of the 2 young adorable actresses playing Bea and Lucy. Even though they were great, it didn't make up for the fact that the story was bland and that I didn't find myself empathising in the least with Winslett's character nor enjoying her actual performance.

            TECHNICAL
            Director: Gillies MacKinnon
            Producer: Ann Scott
            Screenplay: Billy MacKinnon
            Duration: 95 minutes
            Certification: 15 (some nudity and bad language)

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              28.05.2001 02:40

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              • "Boring as hell"

              A waste of time and money - Advantages: Location - Disadvantages: No plot, Too long, Boring as hell

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            Hideous Kinky journeys back to the early 1970s to Marrakesh, that hippy mecca for everyone from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Gillies MacKinnon, the director of this movie. Here you'll find one nice but confused middle-class young woman escaping the daily grind of a drab London with her two young daughters in tow. Whereas Esther Freud's book was told from the younger girl's perspective, the film-script places Julia centre-stage as she searches for what she describes wistfully as "the annihilation of the ego". Though fresh from her Titanic experience, Kate Winslet is no drippy hippy, bringing a refreshing feistiness to her role and looking fetching swathed in diaphanous layers. As her two daughters, Bella Riza (Bea, the wide-eyed younger one) and Carrie Mullan (Lucy, the sensible one) are brilliant discoveries--unselfconscious, charmingly quirky and enjoying a camaraderie that belies their difference in characters. Completing the family unit is Julia's lover, the endearingly unreliable Bilal (a fiery performance from Saïd Taghmaoui). When the money runs out, their adventures begin and the resilience and practicality of the girls is contrasted throughout with the dreaminess of their mother, her sense of duty vying with her quest for self-discovery. Visually, it's a veritable feast as we're pitched from the colour and cacophony of the market-place to the dusty harshness of the mountains. And that elusive title--which is never explained in the film--is in fact a phrase coined by the girls as a term of approbation. On the DVD: Hideous Kinky is presented in widescreen 16:9 with a Dolby Digital soundtrack. Additional features are disappointing minimal. As well as the usual theatrical trailer, there are brief interviews with the main players (though no marks for imagination as they're all asked the same questions) and approximately eight minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. There are no subtitles. --Harriet Smith