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|Nina’s Heavenly Delights|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Pratibha Parmar|
scr Andrea Gibb
with Shelley Conn, Laura Fraser, Veena Sood, Ronny Jhutti, Art Malik, Raad Rawi, Atta Yaqub, Zoe Henretty, Raji James, Kathleen McDermott, Adam Sinclair, Tariq Mullan
release UK 29.Sep.06,
Recipe for love: Fraser and Conn
There are some nice themes and strong ideas behind this film, but in her feature debut, filmmaker Parmar falls back on every cliché she's supposedly trying to undermine.
Prodigal daughter Nina (Conn) returns to Glasgow for her father's funeral, clearly hiding something from her loving Indian family. And they have secrets too: wistful mother Suman (Sood), worldly brother Kary (Yaqub), silly sister Priya (Henretty). The most pressing issue is the buy-out of the family curry house by a rival restaurateur (Malik) and his son (James), who's pursuing Nina. But she clearly has eyes for her new business partner Lisa (Fraser), and they join together with Nina's camp pal Bobbi (Jhutti) to win the local cooking competition and save the restaurant.
Extremely reminiscent of East Is East, the film blends cultural comedy and new/old world tensions with surprise revelations about every character. But Parmar isn't nearly as adept as a filmmaker: her story is far too derivative, and her self-indulgent direction weakens any subtlety Gibb (Dear Frankie) works into the script. The film strains for a luxuriant visual style that it never achieves, mainly due to poor lighting and clumsy story elements like the shimmering Jedi-like apparitions of Nina's dead dad (Rawi).
Performances are strong, although they rarely rise above the trite material. Conn and Fraser generate some engaging chemistry that's undone by bad editing and predictable plotting. Sood keeps her character introspective and intriguing. But Jhutti struggles as the stereotypical flamboyant gay best friend, complete with full-on Bollywood numbers and a painful sing-along to The Monkee's Daydream Believer (which only makes us long to re-watch My Best Friend's Wedding instead).
There's the thread of a good plot, but Parmar overloads it with "secrets" that are corny and obvious. The film's structure is also extremely messy, with awkward narrative lurches and a lot of musical-montage wallowing. By the time we reach the grand finale production number, we can tell that Parmar is just far too pleased with herself to think about her audience. The film is lively and sweet, but it's also silly and, for a movie about food, surprisingly unappetising.
katrina one, london: "This is a great group night out - a 6pm viewing say followed by supper, salivating after the sumptuous food sequences. It's a feast for the senses: Amelie meets Monsoon Wedding." (25.Aug.06)
jason, london: "It was absolutely fantastic i took my new date and we were v surprised to be entertained the kiss scene had us rockin' and by the end we were starvin went out and had a curry @ ninas kitchen and then the night was ours." (29.Sep.06)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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