India Sweets and Spices: Sophia Ali, a still life in shallow water.
Many families, in one way or another, make use of their right to rely on secrets and lies to postpone (prolong?) The darker moments in life. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that my mother had to fire my alcoholic third grade teacher for calling her baby a “worthless cripple” (my arm was in a cast) and a “Kike”. This was followed by my admission that I threw a stone into the sea witch’s headlights. My parents were seldom out on the darker streets of life. When it came to cheating, Babe and Larry never had sex, let alone illegitimate favorites. Nobody would mistake my mother for a “woman libber” either. After all, she wasn’t called a babe because she could hit a ball with a stick or eat 20 hot dogs in one sitting. Both infidelity and feminism are at the heart of India Sweets and Spices, but you have to wait for first-time writer and director Geeta Malik to put aside her craving for “chick-flick” before delving into the issues at stake.
We open with a coming-of-age romcom, an Indian-flavored goodbye, Columbus. Haircuts play an important role in story development. ‘It was the night before summer vacation, a time for the party-out Alia (Sophia Ali) to bring a clipper to her sister so she doesn’t come back to Texas with a bad case of big hair. At first glance, it’s easy to mistake Alia and her friends for drunk high school students. When mother Shiela (Manisha Koirala) was Alias age, she shaved her head in protest against sexual assault on campus. What happened to the once crusade feminist? In the end, it was easier to get hold of a husband with flowing curls. Security forces broke militancy and she traded her radical lifestyle for lavish suburban Chi-Chi Ruby Hills, New Jersey, and arranged marriage to a serial killer.
Once home, Alia quickly returns to her parents’ lavish lifestyle, which includes air kisses among the clapping locals who attend their regular costume gatherings. But a lot has changed in Alias’ absence; This includes a change of ownership in the grocery store of the same name, where the handsome Varun (Rish Shah) is currently filling the shelves of his parents’ shop. A slow-motion gust of wind brushing through her hair was a poor choice of cliché to express Alia’s sudden interest. On an impulse, she invited Varun and his parents to the cookie cutter meeting this weekend. While assessing the potential for a summer romance with an alternative romantic interest Rahul (Ved Sapru), she discovers her father Ranjit (Adil Hussain) on top of the stairs and in the arms of Rahul’s mother.
Varun and the people don’t match the crowded nouveau riche that is in attendance. (Ranjit bought pounds of books to use as decorations.) Varun later jokes about throwing a pool party in his house and the butler had to inflate it. But Varun’s mother Bhairavi (Deepti Gupta) immediately thinks Sheila is her former classmate in the resistance struggle. Sheila squirms out under pressure. So far, so what? The theme is Indian assimilation, but the execution is strictly that of a small-screen romance. All it took was the darkness at the top of the stairs to throw dramatic light on a comedy that seemed going nowhere.
The next morning, Alia confronts Ranjit over breakfast. It leads to both parents advising their daughter to get out. The same thing happens when she brings up the subject with Rahul. His advice is to soak it up and enjoy the summer. Is it any wonder that she finds solace in Arun’s arms? Mom’s way of dealing with stress is to clear the dining table with a wave of the hand. In hindsight, Sheila describes adolescent digressions as young and stupid. This comes from a middle-aged woman who sold her soul to be with an unscrupulous “good provider”. Fortunately for Alia, Sheila didn’t raise her daughter to wallow in the ordeal of melodramatic drudgery. Leave it to Alia to look past the goofy nature of the gatherings and stare into the epiphanic light of reason without blinking. Her first attempt at picking up mom’s flashlight asks a spoiled uncle if he even knows where the kitchen is. The fluffy comedy of one is the slow-burning drama of the other. The free-running confessionals that crown the procedure have a surefire delight that the audience will enjoy. (Starts Friday at a theater near you.) ★★
Video on demand and summary of new releases
finch – A post-apocalyptic amalgamation of Tom Hanks’ greatest hits (notably Turner and Hooch and Cast Away) is at the center of this wake-up call for climate change deniers. (Perhaps the infidels in the crowd could finally face reality with the message coming in sci-fi presentations and with the Walter Cronkite of cinema as its guide?) Finch (Hanks) isn’t the only survivor of the climate holocaust , but only after more than an hour in the picture is the presence of others questioned. Both the character and the audience quickly realize that Fitch’s days are numbered. Hemoptysis had begun, a breakneck gasp that made Doc Holliday’s heel in My Darling Clementine sound like a tickle. Fearing that Goodyear (Seamus) will not be able to take care of itself when the day finally comes, or that another survivor will fricassize the puppy, Fitch creates Jeff, a robot that takes care of his beloved dog. Don’t be fooled by the name of Caleb Landry Jones in the credits. This is a one-hander, with Jones on board to provide Jeff with his voice and motion capture image. Not only does Fitch teach the lanky bot how to drive an RV – no small feat considering our hero’s observation that Jeff was literally born yesterday – but he teaches his homemade friends lessons in trust and humanity. Miguel Sapochnik’s (Repo Men) second feature calls for us to come to the entertainment and stay for the ecological message. Either way, you win. 2021. – SM ★★★
The human voice – It is not often that a director makes his own film from scratch, and even more rarely that a short feature film is reinvented. Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown and The Human Voice share Jean Cocteau’s one-act monodrama La Voix Humaine as the source material. With one stroke of the proverbial “Speech is silver, silence is gold”, the first third of Almodóvar’s hands-free 30-minute redo plays without dialogue – give or take the words the woman (Tilda Swinton) needs to buy an ax out of hers local hardware store. The final 15 minutes are spent in a monological debate, a one-sided telephone conversation between the woman and her (unheard) lover of four years. It’s hard for Tilda to keep up with the combative set dressing and DVD covers. Sometimes I paid more attention to the high loft and the woman’s taste in books and DVDs (a Douglas Sirk Twofer!) Than to its resident. The stage version ends with the depressed diva being brutally strangled on her telephone cable, while the shortened modern dress version makes a detour at the last minute. Hardly a landline connection in sight, Almodovar closes with a stylistic tailwind that saves the life of the woman and at the same time stifles the narrative effect. In addition to Swinton’s performance, two things stand out: playful opening credits in writings from hardware store articles and the answer to the question of who gets custody of the dog. 2021. – SM ★★