Would Tony Curtis be rolling over in Cary Grant's grave?
Ian Iqbal Rashid's directorial debut stumbles, rights itself, and finishes strong. His script, inspired by his own life story, bends closely in places to well known stereotypes, but the authenticity brought to the film puts to rest such thoughts pretty quickly.
Alim is Pakistani, living in London, having grown up in Canada, by way of East Africa. He is also gay, and probably has little trouble expounding on his life story at parties. His lover is Giles. And when his mother comes out for a visit, we indulge the slapstick world of trying to get back into the closet. For Alim's family is very traditional (of course), and appearances make a great deal of difference. This isn't an unfamiliar storyline, but it unfolds in a real, organic way, and it's not a stretch to believe something like this actually happened.
Throughout the film, Alim is accompanied by an imaginary friend, one who has stood by, commenting and advising for his whole adult life. An apparition created from watching too many old movies as a child.
Kyle MacLachlan has done a marvelous job of looking and sounding exactly like Tony Curtis, trying to woo Marilyn Monroe by pretending to be an artistocrat in Some Like It Hot. As it happens, Curtis was imitating Cary Grant, which is who MacLachlan is supposed to be. I had to sit with this a while, and decide if it was just my familiarity with Billy Wilder's film that was taking me out of the experience. Is most anyone going to sound alike in doing Cary Grant?
I decided the problem is one of nuance. Curtis-as-Grant was purely caricature, which fit perfectly into the broad comedy of that film. But Touch of Pink, while still a comedy, has deeper roots into drama. The question is how real is this projection of Alim's mind? The script answers by giving some genuine emotions to the unreal character. The lack of nuance in the continual punchy dialog from him makes it impossible to portray any autheniticity when the script calls for it. I'm more likely to pin this on director Rashid than MacLachlan, but everyone should have known that just as the dramatic elements had their comedic aspects, so must this comedic character be able to dip, however lightly but authentically, into the drama. I think the script handles Cary Grant well. It just didn't quite translate to screen this time.
The film bears a few minor indie difficulties, from a slow start to a little hesitation in the ending. There are lots of great lines, most going to Alim's mother or Cary Grant. If not for Grant, though, it would be easy to overlook the rough spots and call this a definite "recommend". I really did enjoy this film, and I think a lot of people will as well, but this one flaw is just too prominent to overlook for my overall rating. I'm pulling for Touch of Pink, though, so I encourage you to see it anyway, and tell me if you agree.
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