** (out of ****)
Making its Chicago premier over the weekend, Vladan Nikolic's Greek / American film "Bourek" (2016) gets its name from a desert yet there is nothing sweet about the movie.
The world is in chaos. Stock markets are crashing, there is a heightened threat of terrorism, wars in the middle east, climate change and television pastors predicting the end of the world is at hand. What is wealthy businessman W.C. (William Leroy) to do? Heeding the advice of his pastor (Paul Sevigny) W.C. takes his wife, Lilly (Christina Aloupi) to the Greek island of Khronos, as the pastor predicts the island will be the only safe haven once the world ends.
"Bourek" wants to be a timely socially, politically, economically aware movie hitting on the issues in the headlines today. Ultimately the movie makes no firm statement about anything. It brings up the current issues but what is "Bourek" and its writer / director Mr. Nikolic's telling us? The movie is referred to as a social satire but what is it really satirizing? The lack of viewpoint is what hurts "Bourek" most of all. The third rate actors don't help either. The movie feels like nothing more than a really good amateur film. "Really good" meaning the camera is steady, the actors are in focus and appear to have remembered all of their lines and the audio is good.
The normally deserted island soon becomes a melting pot as tourist of different nationalities all end up on the island. Besides W.C. and Lilly there are two Serbian brothers (Branislav Trifunovic and Sergej Trifunovic) who have come to the island mistakenly believing it will be a good place to pick up women. There is performance artist Fujiko (Mari Yamamoto) who has come to be close to nature, as Khronos is the least visited of all the Greek islands. And there is a Lebanese refugee (Al Nazemian) and a man (Jason Grechanik) who has lost his memory, after being hit on the head. They are all staying at a hotel run by Eleni (Katerina Misichroni) who is in debt due to the lack of business.
Is this supposed to be a commentary on our global economy? Does each character represent a different social standing? Are these characters a metaphor for the European Union and the debt crisis in Greece? Maybe. Maybe not.
The movie also does such a poor job of creating fully realized characters for the audience to believe in. The audience can't accept anything on-screen. Even if this was a satire and the characters were not meant to be real characters but rather exaggerations of different factions in society the movie doesn't do that either. Nearly nothing is heightened to make a strong social commentary.
If there is one bright spot to the movie it would be Ms. Misichroni. The character is not original; young woman trying to hold on the the family business after her parents have died, but Ms. Misichroni provides us with the only human character. Unfortunately a romantic sub-plot written for the character doesn't work as yet again, it is not developed. The audience not does buy into the romance and attraction between the two characters.
A movie such as "Bourek" could have been made into a good movie. It is timely. There is material there to satirize or even make a dramatic film on but director Vladan Nikolic (whom according to IMDb is an associate professor of film and new media) doesn't do anything with it. I can't even decipher the symbolic meaning (if there is one) of the movie's title.
"Bourek" is a well-meaning movie but outside of one good performance everything about the movie is amateurish or average at best. Too bad.