Movie review: ‘Just Like a Woman’ wishes it were ‘Thelma & Louise’

There are the two friends, their deadbeat exes, the desert road trip and the convertible — even the unplanned murder. All that’s missing from “Just Like a Woman,” Rachid Bouchareb’s salute to “Thelma & Louise,” is the quality. As replacement, we have belly-dancing, which here is not just the dance of seduction, but the dance of self-expression, female empowerment and freedom.

Sienna Miller plays Marilyn, a Chicago receptionist with a big, weird dream: join the Santa Fe Belly Dance Company, an apparently full-time position that will allow her to travel the world. (Who knew?!) Her passenger, Mona (Golshifteh Farahani), is a belly-dance aficionado fleeing a miserable marriage. To make money during the drive from Illinois to New Mexico, they find freelance gigs shimmying in restaurants for a variety of louts.

Now that the hype has faded off former It-Girl Miller, we can see her for what she is: a solid actress with a surprisingly sensible streak. She’s too good for this nonsense. The only surprising thing in Joelle Touma and Marion Doussot’s script is the deadpan absurdity of its bra-tops-and-bangles hook, which reaches its peak when Mona dares Marilyn to replace her audition song with a ditty that sounds exactly the same. (In turn, Marilyn flies into a rage, insisting that she doesn’t have enough time to choreograph new chest thrusts.) Like belly-dancing itself, this drama is meant for the soul, not the mind — or as Marilyn’s instructor commands, “Brains! Stop using them!”


“Just Like a Woman”

MPAA rating: R for language and a scene of sexuality

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing at: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills.