A wacky road trip in which four oldsters try to get to a gravesite before it is desecrated by real-estate developers, Nibal Arakji’s Wanted follows a very familiar picaresque template, leaning especially hard into gags about how manners and physiology make this kind of journey different for the golden-years set. As broad as can be, the Lebanese pic appears to lose much in translation; while the story itself would appear to have promise for English-language fans of marigold hotels and bucket lists, in practice its potential as an import is nearly nil. In Arabic-speaking territories, though, it should be passably commercial.
Our heroes live in a retirement home where a supportive, indulgent nursing staff is overseen by a stereotypically tyrannical boss — as Amar, Aïda Sabra sneers and shouts and even accessorizes her villainy with a purse-sized doggie. Arakji spends most of the early scenes establishing a blossoming romance between Doodi (Daad Rizk) and Adeeb (Georges Diab), a onetime bodybuilder who dotes on her, visiting her room every evening to massage her feet. He sends her flowers daily, and when one of his packages mistakenly goes to another resident, Doodi lets there be no mistake about whom Adeeb belongs to.
Any humor is lost in translation.
Another woman, soft-spoken Jacko (Sihame Haddad), has no time for such romantic silliness. Long a widow, she can imagine no man who’d compete with the memory of her beloved husband, who is buried beneath an olive tree his family tended for generations. Her placid mood is wrecked when she hears that developers want to build a mall and spa on that site, razing the tree and relocating his body. In no time, Doodi and Adeeb volunteer to help avert this travesty. Accompanied by the frail Walid (Georges Boukhalil), they “borrow” Amar’s car and sneak off the retirement home’s grounds. Before Amar even knows she’s been robbed — whereupon she’ll get regional police to start tracking the four runaways — they’ve lost that car to a second thief, and are stranded on the road.
Arakji’s script wastes little brainpower imagining ways for the travelers to continue their trip. They try busking, shoplift and go into a church to steal the collection plate. None of these scenes look for humor beyond the fact that it’s old people doing these things; occasionally, a plan is interrupted by the need to urinate.
The biggest twist in the plot riffs on dirty-old-man stereotypes and geezer cluelessness: Going to a gym to work out for some reason, Adeeb is drawn to Kitty, a puffy-lipped Barbie he doesn’t realize is a prostitute. Later, Kitty will save the day, picking the four up when they’re stranded again on the road, and taking them back to the dorm she shares with other sex workers. Much silly misbehavior ensues, finally landing our geriatric outlaws in the clutches of police. As happens so often in this kind of situation, a viral video saves the day.
Production company: Dream Box Productions
Cast: Daad Rizk, Georges Diab, Sihame Haddad, Georges Boukhalil, Pierre Rabbat, Aïda Sabra, Wissam Saliba, Badih Abou Chakra
Director-screenwriter-producer: Nibal Arakji
Director of photography: Rachelle Noja
Editor: Cherine Debs
Venue: Cairo International Film Festival (Special Screenings)