By Nina Bovan (Belgrade, Serbia)
How can you possibly resist Bill Murray? I know I can’t and I proved that by watching even that terrible last year’s Coppola Christmas flick (Sofia, how could you?).
Anyway, I love watching Murray in action and this movie was on my list for a very long time, but life was in the way. I finally had the chance to watch it last week and decided to share my opinion. Now, let’s get one thing straight: Rock the Kasbah ain’t no masterpiece. But, it has Murray, hilarious dialogues and one-liners, barely dressed Kate Hudson and great soundtrack. And that’s basically all you need of a movie on a Saturday night. Story is far from original, but it’s told in a fresh, new way. You don’t see movies about old American music managers trying to make a star out of an Afghan girl every day, do you now? The movie is actually based on a documentary called Afghan Star, which deals with the topic of freedom under Taliban law in a much more serious way. Girls are not allowed to take their hijab off in public and most definitely not allowed to dance and sing in a music competition.
Rock the Kasbah focuses on that briefly in the second act and almost lightheartedly treats the issue, but definitely paints the picture of what women are enduring and what their position is in this repressive system which threatens them with femicide. Besides Afghan women, Kate Hudson’s character, Merci, is also present. She is an American woman who is surviving the war in the role of the local prostitute. There are also bunch of other American characters who are dealing with life in various illegal ways, some more successfully than others. Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) gets acquainted with them all during his almost impossible mission of rescuing Salima (Leem Lubany) from her homicidal father Tariq (Fahim Fazli) and trying to get her on the singing show. “Chick in the red didn’t get the memo” and was singing her heart out in the nearby cave, when Lanz heard her and decided that his fate was to make her a star. A really bold idea since he is in Afghanistan with the ongoing war and in the middle of language and cultural barrier.
Murray’s trademark grumpiness and sarcasm, but with a hint of desperation in his portrayal of Lanz, combined with unintentionally funny assistant/translator Riza (Arian Moayed) are not something you should miss. Surely there are some scenes that we could do without, characters that we could do without (was Zooey Deschanel’s character really necessary? Especially since she vanished into thin air after 10 minute mark), strange choice of colour scheme that we could do without, but all in all it is a decent project. Barry Levinson did make a couple of bad films, but this ain’t one. Give this movie a chance and let yourself be entertained. To quote the official tag line: “Opportunity rocks when you least expect it”. Also, please watch this for my sake and those numerous times I wrote “Casbah” instead of “Kasbah”.