Beneath the custodianship of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai has methodically reworked itself right into a sort of resort state — a platonic international citizen’s platonic preferrred of a great time. It seems to be designed to cater to the traveler who needs frictionless, engineered enjoyable; the phantasm of elsewhere with out the alienation; the phantasm of tradition with out the tedium — as an example, on now, by way of Feb. 1, a procuring competition. In Dubai, you’ll be able to ski with penguins. You’ll be able to go to the Dubai Mall, one of many largest on the earth. You’ll be able to see Lego camels at Legoland. There’s an island formed like a palm tree.
The movie that guides us by way of this wonderland is titled ‘‘A Story Takes Flight,’’ although no such factor occurs, in any actual narrative sense. Gwyneth and Kate are on a women’ journey with a 3rd buddy, Zoe Saldana (of ‘‘Avatar’’ fame), who has run off with Bedouins — for the weekend, or one thing. Moodily stalking the dunes, she meets a falconer, who invitations her to carry his falcon and demonstrates how he can monitor it along with his smartphone. Afterward, she hops on her motorbike and hits the highway. When she runs out of fuel in the midst of nowhere, she is rescued by two males who take her shoe procuring. ‘‘It’s all concerning the sneakers,’’ one says, because the three of them stare upon a pair of gold sandals by way of a store window. ‘‘They’re beautiful.’’ Saldana appears down at her scruffy boots and purses her lips in severe contemplation.
Hudson, in the meantime, is sitting at an out of doors cafe when she strikes up a dialog with a gray-bearded, man-bunned expat cradling a bass case. She asks the place she may purchase some native artwork to take dwelling. He tells her, and he or she introduces herself, as you wouldn’t — particularly when you had been the world-famous movie-star daughter of a world-famous film star. Whereas this is occurring, Paltrow is wandering the souk, the place she spots a woman in a hijab using a skateboard. She snaps her image with out asking for her permission. The woman is cool with it, as a result of she’s into cameras, too.
The pressured feeling of those vignettes mirrors Dubai’s personal. Dubai is an accelerated metropolis, a master-planned vacation spot on a mass scale. It didn’t change into a spot individuals favored to go to a lot because it was engineered to be one, a hyperreal model of itself providing a consumable simulacrum of native tradition interwoven with placeless, high-end luxurious actions. The video takes pains to current visiting Dubai as a distinctly native and particularly — if superficially — Arab cultural expertise. It additionally nudges its placeless postmodernity towards an earthier sort of international cosmopolitanism: much less snowboarding with penguins in malls and extra probability conferences with good-looking motorcyclists and bohemian musician sorts.
The selection of three feminine international film stars — to not point out the director, Reed Morano, who’s greatest recognized for her work on ‘‘The Handmaid’s Story’’ — for this specific rebranding is a dissonant one. ‘‘A Story Takes Flight’’ posits Dubai as a contemporary metropolis the place ladies can do no matter they need; the place enjoyable and freedom and pleasure are their crucial. However within the United Arab Emirates, the place ladies are nonetheless legally obligated to obey their husbands, the legislation imposes some constraints on the women’-trip narrative. In Dubai, photographing ladies with out their permission, as Paltrow does, may get you into authorized hassle. So can swearing; ingesting or kissing in public; having homosexual intercourse; cross-dressing; possessing pornography; or sharing a resort room with a member of the alternative intercourse to whom you’re not married.