Lila Says

Chimo (Mohammed Khouas) is a nineteen-year-old Arab boy who lives in a predominantly Arab section of Paris. He and his friends are out of high school and have nothing to do, so they lounge around and cause mischief. Chimo has a chance to get a scholarship to a prestigious school for writing, yet is reluctant to do so. Everything changes when a Lila (Vahina Giocante, Blueberry, Soldiers of Salamina) moves into the neighborhood. Everybody notices her because she is white, and because she rides around town on a bicycle in a provocatively short skirt. Lila Says, based on the novel of the same name, is a prolonged session of verbal foreplay between Lila and Chimo, and a pretty standard coming of age story where a mysterious stranger sets forth events that will take the protagonist to the next stage of his/her life.

Lila comes on extremely strongly, and is a wholly sexual being. One of the first things she does is ask Chimo if he wants to see her crotch. She gives him rides, snuggling up extremely close to him along the way, and often tells him of dreams and desires that would make sailors blush. All of this is completely new to Chimo. He has never met a girl so open with her sexuality. Moreover, she is the literal forbidden fruit. She is underage, and worse, she is not a Muslim. Every time he is in her presence, he is reduced to near silence because he is both awed by her angelic beauty and shocked at the contrasting language coming out of her mouth. He keeps his "friendship" a secret from his friends, who blatantly lust after her. It's a very odd friendship, usually consisting of Lila trying to shock Chimo, while he just listens.

There is little else to Lila Says. It is one prolonged session of lust-filled tease for Chimo, along the same lines as the first half of The Dreamers minus the nudity. Director Ziad Doueiri (West Beirut) creates a sensual aura around the Lila character, often filming her at an extremely close angle. Giocante looks directly into the camera as if addressing the viewer. The effect is extremely erotic, and it's easy to understand why Chimo acts like such a doorknob in her presence. But ninety minutes of this gets old pretty quickly, and Doueiri and his co-writers Mark Lawrence (Shakespeare…In and Out), and Joelle Touma cannot sustain any other level of dramatic tension.

Honestly, Lila Says works best at this very superficial level of sexual tease. Any time Doueiri tries for some other emotions, especially real love, he falls flat. The rest of the plot is not that interesting. Lila lives with her "aunt," who obviously not her aunt. Her actual connection to Lila is only hinted at, but what is clear is that she is playing her own weird sex games with Lila. As all the pieces begin to fall into place, Lila Says becomes less interesting, and even a bit clichéd. The story is told from Chimo's perspective, who is writing down all of his memories of her. Her presence causes a rift between him and his friends, leading to the events that will cause him to finally do something about his life.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 29 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains language, sensuality, and a scene of violence, probably an R, or knowing the MPAA, possibly an NC-17.

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