I finally watched Danielle Arbid’s infamous Beirut Hotel, the Lebanese movie that has spurred a huge controversy back in November due to it being banned from Lebanese theaters. The reason I took time to watch it is twofold: one because I hadn’t heard of any good responses towards it. And two because I didn’t want to waste my time on a movie whose trailer made it look cheesy and whose hype was only generated by the simple fact that everything forbidden is usually wanted.
Upon watching Beirut Hotel, I can say for myself that my initial thoughts about the movie were perfectly on point – and no, this is not a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Zoha (Darine Hamze) is a sultry singer, more often than not out of tune, at one of Beirut’s bars. The purpose of her singing is not to please the ear as it is to please the eye and Zoha knows this perfectly well. She then meets an enigmatic French man named Mathieu (Charles Berling) with whom she has a late night talk, including informing him of the bar she sings at, before going back home, after a late night kiss of course.
Soon enough, Mathieu is infatuated by Zoha and starts following her around, which she finds creepy (as well as charming). So she storms into his hotel room the following day and before you know it, the anger subsides and turns into sex. But Mathieu may not be the lawyer he claims he is. And with a man wanting to exchange information about Hariri’s assassination for safe-haven in France, things will get messy. Add to that Zoha’s husband (Rodney Haddad) who can’t seem to let her go.
All of this may sound interesting. But trust me, the script is as cheesy and useless as it gets. Remember when Zoha tells Mathieu where she works? Well, when she storms into his hotel room the following day, she actually asks him how he knew where she worked – that is before they sleep together.
In fact, the Darine Hamze sex scenes in the movie are so out of place you can’t but feel they’ve been put there solely for the reason of making an uneventful movie talk-worthy, along the lines of: “There is a moment where Darine Hamze’s breasts show” – cue in thousands of Lebanese who are shocked that a Lebanese actress actually went there.
It is here that I have to commend Darine Hamze for the guts it took her to bare it all in this movie, be it through the various sex scenes or through the obvious sexual appeal she conveyed. She may be the only “good” thing about Beirut Hotel. It’s sad that what she does comes off as forced in the movie.
If Beirut Hotel had been let be – not made into a big media frenzy because of the Hariri plot line it contained, the movie would have crashed and burned at the Lebanese box office because, whether we like to admit it or not, most of us are very cautious when it comes to Lebanese movies. We only watch them when word of mouth is substantial enough to convince us to spend the ticket money on them. Word of mouth would have failed Beirut Hotel, as it should. The movie which takes Beirut’s name not only shows the city in a negative light, I was more than often surprised to see this is the Lebanese capitol we all cherish, coupled with a silly storyline that grasps at straws to become eventful.