Friday, July 23, 2004

Touch of Pink

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2004 at Landmark Kendall Square #5 (preview)

The "coming-out comedy" is a curious little subgenre. It requires a certain minimum acceptance of homosexuality in society to be believable, but also a certain maximum acceptance to create comic tension. Eventually, the form will burn out as the idea of "coming out of the closet" becomes an anachronism. With any luck, that will happen quickly enough that audiences won't have enough time to notice that even movies as clever as Touch Of Pink look vaguely like In & Out.

That's not bad company to have, and Touch of Pink has enough creativity to distinguish itself from the pack. It borrows the lavish wedding background from other recent movies featuring Indian protagonists (Bend It Like Beckham, Monsoon Wedding, Bollywood/Hollywood), but its most entertaining feature is that Amil (Jimi Mistry) has, in addition to his boyfriend of a year Giles (Kristen Holden-Reid), an imaginary friend, and this imaginary friend is Cary Grant, played with gusto by Kyle MacLachlan.

As Grant, MacLachlan exists to pump up Amil's confidence when he's feeling intimidated, to pepper the film with one-liners when it threatens to slow down, and serve as a father figure when one is called for. Clearly, Grant's movies have loomed large in Amil's life: He quotes Charade while in bed with Giles and works as a still photographer on a London movie set. Meanwhile, in Toronto, his mother Nuru (Suleka Mathew) is feeling jealous as her sister plans an elaborate wedding for her son Khalil, which leads to Nuru giving Amil a visit.

I gather writer/director Ian Iqbal Rashid has a fondness for old movies, too, as Touch of Pink features a fair amount of the sort of rapid-fire dialogue that distinguished thirties comedies, my favorite being an exchange between Nuru and Amil )"They say laughter is the best medicine." / "Then I must be in the placebo group."). And while early on it seems as though Rashid has simply traded gay stereotypes in for Indian ones, he and his cast do a good job of making his characters individuals. Nuru, especially, is more than she initially appears.

It's a nice cast; while MacLachlan is probably the only immediately recognizable member of the cast for Americans - relatively few saw Mistry in The Guru, though many including Suleka Mathew and Brian George (as Amil's uncle) will seem familiar from appearing on TV shows which shoot north of the border - everyone gives their characters what they need. It's a somewhat stylized farce at many points, a deliberate throwback to a different period, so a few somewhat exaggerated performances are forgivable. I personally saw perhaps a little Tony Randall slipping into MacLachlan's Cary Grant, but that doesn't make it a less entertaining performance.

It's a shame that this movie is the type that tends to fall between the cracks. A mainstream audience may overlook it because "it's a gay movie" or "it's an Indian movie", when it is basically a comedy that centers on gay/Indian characters, while the boutique audience can easily dismiss it for having few ambitions beyond making people laugh - it's not about being gay or a minority in straight white Toronto.

What it is, is funny. It may not quite have Grant's effortless charm, but it certainly does all right with what it has.

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