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Film review: Indulgent pace in 'Cairo Time' frustrating

Published: Thursday, Sept. 2 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

Alexander Siddig and Patricia Clarkson in "Cairo Time."

Colm Hogan

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CAIRO TIME — ★★1/2 — Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig; with English subtitles (Arabic dialects); rated PG (adult themes); Broadway Centre

In its own peculiar way, "Cairo Time" almost appears to be a cinematic response to "Sex and the City 2."

Both movies feature middle-age American women who have a series of adventures (or misadventures) in the Middle East. But the grotesque, stereotypical characterizations of Arabs and Muslims in the latter movie were offensive, to put it mildly.

The former, a drama, tries to right that wrong by depicting its Middle Eastern characters in a more sympathetic light. Though, as with the other movie, there is some unrealistic and silly material here that is clearly fantasy as well.

And the at-times slow and indulgent pacing of "Cairo Time" will frustrate a few viewers, even if the Egyptian landmarks and scenery is stunning.

Patricia Clarkson stars as Juliette Grant, a magazine writer who's come to Cairo to visit her husband, Mark (a briefly seen Tom McCamus), an aid worker for the United Nations.

However, Mark is busy to the points of being neglectful, so Juliette winds up with plenty of time on her hands.

Fortunately, she has an enthusiastic tour guide. He's Tareq Khalifa (Alexander Siddig), a friend of her husband who agrees to show her around.

As you might expect, these two spend more and more time together, and start to grow closer.

Screenwriter/director Ruba Nadda's tale is fairly tasteful. The attraction between the two leads is more about their shared experiences and meaningful glances than anything explicit.

And Nadda really relies on her actors to make this material work. The dialogue has a loose, improvised feel, almost as if she allowed both Clarkson ("Shutter Island") and Siddig (TV's "24") to choose their words and thus get comfortable inside these character's respective "skins."

"Cairo Time" is rated PG and features some mild adult themes (dealing with personal relationships), a few slurs based on nationality and ethnicity, as well as scenes of smoking (including use of a hookah). Running time: 90 minutes.

e-mail: features@desnews.com

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