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Sundance Review and Roundup: Jordan Family Drama 'May in the Summer'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 18, 2013 at 3:11PM

Writer-director Cherien Dabis adds actress to her skill-set with Sundance opening-nighter "May in the Summer," her follow-up to her first 2009 film "Amreeka." In both films Dabis takes her singular experience as an Arab American to reveal how complicated living between cultures can be.
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Columbia Women Filmmakers
Dabis, Holofcener, Cholodenko, Springer Berman

Variety:

Having explored a Palestinian woman's difficulty assimilating into U.S. culture in her winning 2009 debut, "Amreeka," writer-director Cherien Dabis flips the script to more ambitious but less satisfying effect in "May in the Summer." Observing the upheaval that ensues when an Arab-American bride-to-be returns to the family homestead in Amman, Jordan, this warmly conceived but largely formulaic picture is by turns sensitive and shrill, culturally perceptive and overly broad in its dysfunctional-family melodramatics. Easy-viewing arthouse audiences should find "Summer's" combo of accessible, femme-centric material and exotic environs to their liking.

The Hollywood Reporter:

The delicate humor, strong sense of cultural identity and deep affection for her characters that distinguished Cherien Dabis’ Amreeka are again in evidence in her second feature, May in the Summer. But while there’s much to enjoy here – particularly in the touching performance of Hiam Abbass – there’s also plenty that is clichéd and forced in this rather conventional story of a young American-Jordanian woman hesitating on the precipice of marriage.

Indiewire:

Its storytelling alone makes "May in the Summer" stand out from the industry standard for this form of pre-wedding drama, but the movie also impressively avoids making a big deal out of its milieu. The presence of old world values and Middle Eastern strife only occasionally comes into play as one of many organic forces intrinsic to the environment… More than anything else, "May in the Summer" holds together due to its committed lead performance. Dabis, making her acting debut, comes across as aggressively confident onscreen as she is behind it.

New York Post:

Get ready for “My Big Fat Jordanian Wedding,” or don’t, because “May in the Summer” is probably not coming soon to a theater near you. Writer-director Cherien Dabis, the star of this sort-of romcom/sort of drama, has the face and figure of a runway model. Unfortunately, she also has the acting ability of one, displaying little affect in this dreary culture clash.

This article is related to: Reviews, Sundance Film Festival, Festivals, Festivals, Reviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.