A perfectly boring movie from Julian Schnabel---is it possible? The latest from the painter-director-provocateur (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) is the kind of atmospheric, politically bland movie we expect from Important Filmmakers like Roland Joff. Miral is doubly vexing for finding the dull in the explosive Palestinian-Israeli conflict (apparently not as hard as you'd think). The plot has both a real-life female hero in Hind al-Husseini (Abbass), founder of a sanctuary for Palestinian girls shortly after Israel's statehood in 1948, as well as a hot wanna-be-terrorist (Slumdog Millionaire's Pinto, playing an Arab) as the title character. So what gives? The decades skip along, and so little happens dramatically---no explosions, no major unexpected deaths---that the choice of timid material (a novel by journalist Rula Jebreal, Schnabel's new girlfriend) seems a serious mistake.
Is it enough that the movie represents a pro-Palestinian perspective from a Jewish filmmaker (and distributor, the Weinsteins)? Not really. Though a tiny cameo by Vanessa Redgrave would suggest otherwise, Miral walks a safe line of reconciliation, making its director seem half-smart to the complexities of his subject. A tender Palestinian dad (Siddig) wants no violence; an earthy Israeli student (Schnabel's daughter Stella) freely loves her Palestinian-radical boyfriend. Meanwhile, the Oslo Accords approach and we hear pie-in-the-sky dialogue about racial harmony and separate states. The whole movie feels like good-taste entertainment for a lefty crowd---a lukewarm effort where more fire was needed. When Tom Waits starts croaking on the soundtrack, hipster exhaustion becomes crippling.