Canada seems to be fostering a cottage industry of ethnic coming out comedies. Indian variant freshens the formula of a tradition-bound family confronted with a gay scion, adding a Technicolored Hollywood fantasy vein via the protagonist's running dialogue with the spirit of Cary Grant, wryly impersonated by Kyle MacLachlan.

With last year’s “Mambo Italiano” and now “Touch of Pink,” Canada seems to be fostering a cottage industry of ethnic coming out comedies. This Indian variant freshens the formula of a tradition-bound family confronted with a gay scion, adding a Technicolored Hollywood fantasy vein via the protagonist’s running dialogue with the spirit of Cary Grant, wryly impersonated by Kyle MacLachlan. A lovely performance from Suleka Mathew as the mother also helps mask a certain stereotypical obviousness and should boost the comedy’s accessibility for international audiences.

Photographer Alim (Jimi Mistry) lives in a committed relationship with his boyfriend Giles (Kristen Holden-Ried) in London, safe from the scrutiny of his mother and other relatives in Toronto. But the gloating of his aunt Dolly (Veena Sood) about her son’s upcoming wedding chafes against the competitive nature of Alim’s mother Nura (Suleka Mathew), who impulsively flies to London to bring him back for the family celebrations and to find him a nice Muslim girl.

Guided by his fantasy confidant Cary (MacLachlan), Alim opts to remain in the closet, shifting Giles into the guestroom to pose as his roommate. Giles plays along, slowly charming their prickly houseguest, while Alim rashly invents a fiancee for himself in his lover’s sister. But the truth soon emerges, causing his mother to flee back to Toronto with her dreams of a wedding and grandchildren destroyed. Shocked by Alim’s insensitive handling of the situation, Giles also walks out.

Alim follows his mother to Canada to fix the mess, with Cary tagging along to give support and mostly misguided advice. Alim continues lying to protect his mother. But when Dolly’s son Khaled (Raoul Bhaneja) returns drunk on the eve of his wedding, looking for some of the adolescent bedroom action he enjoyed with Alim, the walls of hypocrisy come tumbling down.

While there’s a certain familiarity to much of the comedy and its clash of cultures and values, the film’s chronicle of the changes undergone by Nura as well as its homage to old Hollywood lift “Touch of Pink” to a more rewarding level.

As Nura gradually comes to realize that Alim truly loves Giles, she reveals hidden depths and a great deal in common with her son, right down to their love of Hollywood-style romance and glamour. For his part, Alim’s newfound honesty and openness enable him to stop leaning on fantasy and embrace life’s more earthly pleasures.

Nura’s transition is played with appealing strength, warmth and grace by Mathew, nicely balanced with the character’s sharp-tongued wit. Less range is required of Mistry though he contributes a likable lead turn as a man being pulled in conflicting directions and initially unable to seize the reins himself. Holden-Ried displays winning ease and charm, while Sood and Brian George as Alim’s aunt and uncle fill the ethnic-mugging quota without going to caricature.

Debuting writer-director Ian Iqbal Rashid has written extensively for British television, including the cult series “This Life.” While his pacing could be snappier and some scenes feel like pedestrian filler, Rashid shows an ability to get to the emotional heart of the material, as well as an ease at integrating fantasy and reality and an evident love and understanding of the conventions of Hollywood romantic froth.

This aspect is enhanced by the rich colors of the lensing, production design and costumes, and especially by MacLachlan’s surprisingly accurate embodiment of Cary Grant, in all his debonair drollness.

Touch of Pink

Canada - U.K.

Production

A Sony Pictures Classics release of an Alliance Atlantis presentation of a Sienna Films, Martin Pope production. Produced by Jennifer Kawaja, Martin Pope, Julia Sereny. Executive producer, Charlotte Mickie. Directed, written by Ian Iqbal Rashid.

Crew

Camera (color), David Makin; editor, Susan Maggi; music, Andrew Lockington; production designer, Gavin Mitchell; art director, Humberto Garcia; costume designer, Joyce Schure; sound (Dolby Digital), Bill McMillan; line producer, Lena Cordina; assistant director, N. Trent Hurry. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 19, 2004. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Alim - Jimi Mistry Cary Grant - Kyle MacLachlan Nura - Suleka Mathew Giles - Kristen Holden-Ried Dolly - Veena Sood Hassan - Brian George Khaled - Raoul Bhaneja
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