The tone of Nadine Labaki’s “Where do we Go Now?” is for the most part comical and upbeat, which is surprising considering it’s about the conflict between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East. The movie takes place in a remote, unnamed village in Lebanon, where both Christians and Muslim’s co exist with each other. They’ve been at peace for some time now but all it can take is one little feud to cause a bloody dispute.
As much as Labaki’s picture is about religious differences the final conclusion I got from it is that: The men in this village are dumb, aggressive babies who are incapable of solving their own disputes. After hearing a report on the radio and television that an attack happened somewhere else in the country resulting in a few Christian deaths, the woman in the village cover the situation up the best they can, other wise the dissenting religious men will fight and most likely kill one another. The graveyard located outside of the village mostly contains men (husbands, brothers, sons etc.). At one point someone remarks that the village has more dead than living. In an odd way I was reminded of an episode of the “The Simpsons” in which Marge tries to hide from Homer the fact that there is a Chili festival in Springfield because she doesn’t want him to get drunk and make a fool of himself and her.
In order to cover up the situation the women try a number of non-violent tactics. This is how the comic and upbeat-ness comes about. They hire a group of young prostitutes to distract and tease the men, and later on bake a bunch of hash and pills into baked goods to get them all stoned. I know, I know these things seem more appropriate in an American teen stoner comedy, but I must admit I somewhat enjoyed these little comic intervals. They give the picture a sense of energy and vitality that’s unexpected. To add more comedy there’s plenty of bickering amongst the townspeople and physical gags.
Now, I don’t have an issue with this picture’s negative view on males but Lebaki and co screenwriter’s Rodney El Hadded, Jihad Hojeily and Sam Mounier make every single man in the village, a dumb, aggressive baby. They start out as caricatures and stay as them and because there’s no development they eventually mold into one big blob of…dumb, aggressive, babies. The women have to break up their fights and make them apologize to one another. I find it difficult to believe that there wouldn’t at least be one man smart enough to see the stupidity and work with the women.
Labaki and her writers make a worthy effort with “Where Do We Go Now?” The acting (which includes Labaki herself in a leading role) is decent enough, although none of the performances, even those of the females, are all that memorable. And I applaud their attempt at trying to present a serious issue in a comic light (even though there are peculiar shifts in mood and emotion, from funny, to sad, to funny again). But in the end the movie has a too narrow and bitter view of its men. We’re not all dumb, aggressive babies.