A U.N. premiere! A Vanessa Redgrave cameo! Zionist hoodlums! While Jewish advocacy groups swarm to director Julian Schnabel's bait, it bears noting that Miral—scripted by Palestinian-born Rula Jebreal, adapting her own novelized life story—is a very flat, fuddled movie, an at-odds-with-itself partisan work whose convictions diffuse in a warm soak of style. Miral seeks to reflect the entwined destinies of the Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian people through both the personal history of the title character and the formative experiences of those (mostly women) who would in turn form her, beginning at Israel's birth in 1948 and ending at the 1993 Oslo peace accord. Less the intuitive scene-to-scene storytelling it pretends to be than checklist filmmaking, Miral is a scavenger hunt for the issues and representative characters that you simply must include in a panoramic survey of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Showing up in the title role near the film's halfway point, Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto never asserts an independent presence transcending "Radiant Face of Young Palestine" poster girl. Little is done to dam this sluggish river of imagery into something powerful. Actual news footage of rock-hurling protesters blurs with Schnabel-shot scenes of the Israeli army bulldozing a Palestinian home: These are images of people we scarcely know, suffering under circumstances we don't understand, and only further obscured by travelogue impressionism.
Pinto is cute, but doesn't bring much depth of character.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., April 8. Rated PG-13. 114 minutes.