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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Mira Nair|
scr Sooni Taraporevala
with Kal Penn, Tabu, Irfan Khan, Zuleikha Robinson, Jacinda Barrett, Sahira Nair, Brooke Smith, Linus Roache, Glenne Headly, Daniel Gerrol, Maximiliano Hernández, Sibani Biswas
release US 9.Mar.07, UK 30.Mar.07
06/US Fox 2h02
Meet the parents: Tabu, Penn and Barrett
Covering three decades in the life of a family, this film remains remarkably intimate, focussing finely on the characters as it weaves a fascinating tapestry of the meeting of cultures.
The lively young singer Ashima (Tabu) meets her future husband Ashoke (Khan) on the eve of their marriage in 1977 Calcutta. She then sets up a home with him in New York, where he works. Years pass and now their grown son Gogol (Penn), named after Ashoke's favourite author, has become a rising-star architect who must come to grips with his heritage--with the help of his parents, his sister (Nair), his American fiancée (Barrett) and a Bengali family friend (Robinson).
Filmmaker Nair (Monsoon Wedding) is adept at capturing cultural subtleties, and her observant, intimate style works perfectly here, with incisive production design and an anecdotal script that's sweet, dramatic, tragic and even sexy. This film covers a lot of ground, from the prologue in 1974 to the present day coda. At times it feels a little hurried; we want to sink into these beautifully realised times and settings and get to know the characters even better.
The cast is superb, with resonant work from both Tabu and Khan as flawed but genuinely likable people who are just trying to make the most of life in the places they find themselves. Tabu is especially engaging, as her journey is full of reluctant, unexpected changes. But the film's best surprise is a sensitive, charming, shaded performance from Penn (Harold & Kumar) as a young man who thinks he has everything sorted, but has never taken into account who he really is.
These rich themes make the film much more than just a multi-generational family story or an examination of Indian and American cultures. Both of those are here but, above all, the narrative encourages us to look both inside ourselves and at the world around us. It might be a bit sentimental at times, but it's also complex and moving. And it's a rare film that acknowledges that while movies and books can take us far away, there's nothing like getting out there and seeing it firsthand.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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