Set among the Turkish community in Berlin, “Lola + Bilidikid” is a gritty look at racism and bigotry between the Germans and the Turks, the straights and the gays, the haves and the have-nots. And while the setting and themes are certainly compelling, the film is simply not well enough written or directed to work on any level.
It starts like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with colourful belly dancing drag queens in a seedy nightclub. One of these is Lola (Mukli), whose boyfriend Bili (Yildiz) is so fiercely macho that he wants Lola to have a sex change and become a woman so he doesn’t have to admit he’s gay. Meanwhile, their friend Iskander (Yilmaz) has fallen for a rich older man (Gerber) whose mother (Keller) is very suspicious of him. And Lola’s homophobic older brother Osman (Mete) is trying to teach younger brother Murat (Davrat) to be a man, but doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. With all the tension between everyone, we know it’s not going to end happily.
The conflicting ideologies offer huge potential for comedy, irony and drama, but Ataman misses it all with a clunky script that not only indulges in stereotypes but comes across as a research project. That is, it feels utterly contrived … like he doesn’t really know and couldn’t care less for these characters. Fortunately the actors–some of whom are glaringly miscast–bring humanity to the film, but not quite enough to fill in the film’s broad thematic strokes (everything from streetwalking to neo-Nazis get a look in). And the biggest pity is the way Ataman completely misses the irony of Bili’s nickname; a wild west-style finale would have been much cleverer than the exceedingly violent action-film climax.