REVIEW: ‘Oh Belinda,’ Why Did You Even Bother?

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Oh Belinda - But Why Tho

Oh Belinda (2023) is a Netflix Original Turkish-language remake of a well-regarded 1986 film Aaahh Belinda directed by Deniz Yorulmazer and written by Hakan Bonomo that, simply put, had no reason to be made. Dilara (Neslihan Atagül) is an actress hoping to break into bigger roles, so she unwittingly accepts a part in a shampoo commercial where she must portray a traditional housewife to fulfill the director’s extreme and intense demands for her. Only, as she struggles through take after take, she suddenly becomes stuck in the world of the commercial as the housewife Handan herself.

Oh Belinda just doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be. Is it a modern pop-comedy, with a boppy soundtrack? Is it a thriller, making a point about feminism through its moments of intensity? Strive as the movie does to be both at once—a totally reasonable goal—it doesn’t really succeed in capturing either. Its moments of comedy are there, where Dilara is running amuck trying to escape the world she’s become stuck in or she’s a victim to yet another surprise in the false life she’s living. But they’re undermined by bizarre plot turns that just aren’t funny, mostly a whole sub-plot that wasn’t part of the original movie involving Handan’s gross boss and several layers of trouble they’ve gotten themselves into.

The thriller notes are also too short-lived and played off for laughs. There are tiny shifts in the atmosphere during several scenes where Handan’s husband Necati (Necip Memili) comes onto her aggressively and she resists him, or just constantly is berating their children. But instead of leaning into the genuine danger that he puts them all in as a clearly aggressive man who can tend to objectify his wife and kids, Oh Belinda makes Necati into more of a dufus instead. It’s not a bad choice unto itself, but because the air thickens and the music darkens just the tiniest bit when these scenes come up, playing him off as a fool rather than a threat is disappointing.

The original version of the film starred Müjde Ar, a highly decorated and celebrated revolutionary actress in Turkish cinema. In the 1986 rendition, which won several prestigious awards including for best actress, Ar’s character stands out as distinctly feminist for the time. She has died red hair, sharp lipstick, and a bold style in a film where few other women are dressed as such. She’s also an evident francophile, which marks her as “educated,” “worldly,” and “interesting.” Her resistance to her husband is stronger and more prolonged in a sense that depicts him as more of a villain she has to escape than, whatever he’s supposed to be in the 2023 version. The character’s refusal to give into the role she’s supposed to play in this world is elevated by the multiple other female characters to support her repeatedly throughout the movie.

In 2023, we instead have a petty rivalry between Dilara and a fellow actress that opens the movie off and extends throughout the whole thing. She’s the villain in the remake, which itself isn’t inherently disinteresting, but in the context of the original production and the movie’s conclusion, the choice today feels myopic. The greatest sin of Oh Belinda is that it gives into the commercial director’s messed-up vision. Dilara can’t escape unless she forfeits herself to the housewife ways. It’s not to say that keeping a home, cooking for your husband, and loving your kids can’t be feminism. It’s that this isn’t what Dilara wants. She’s coerced into it. This happens in the original too, but there the movie is more evidently a thriller, so we know it’s a bad thing, whereas here the messages and tones are so muddled that it just comes across as nothing out of the ordinary by the time Dilara concedes.

And it still doesn’t even matter by the end, but the completely outlandish conclusion of Oh Belinda (2023) does another one-eighty and declares freedom the most important element again. It’s just a mess of tonal shifts that are much too hard to follow because they never seemed to have a clear direction from the start. The singular redeeming quality of Oh Belinda and why I wouldn’t go as far as to call it unwatchable is Atagül’s performance. She acts the heck out of her role. The distress is all over her physicality and her ability to keep up with the dramatic swings in tone is completely admirable.

Oh Belinda is a remake that adds nothing to the conversation its original movie initiated, and if anything, muddles the message with its tonal uncertainty. It’s very well-acted, but unfortunately just doesn’t have much else to grab you by.

Oh Belinda is streaming now on Netflix.

Oh Belinda (2023)
  • 4.5/10
    Rating - 4.5/10


Oh Belinda is a remake that adds nothing to the conversation its original movie initiated, and if anything, muddles the message with its tonal uncertainty. It’s very well-acted, but unfortunately just doesn’t have much else to grab you by.

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