BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD

Now, look out toward the horizon. See those things way off in the distance? Those are the plot developments. You can see them coming from 200 miles away. But admittedly, that’s part of the fun.

Synopsis: A seriously fun cross-cultural comedy that revels in its Desi roots, Deepa Mehta’s (Earth, Fire) rollicking faux-Bollywood romantic musical employs all the conventions of the genre to tell the tale of star-crossed lovers who fall for each other despite their better instincts; not to mention that they seem to have little in common apart from the ethnic roots each of them is struggling to shed.

Review: I’d like to add a disclaimer before I get into my review of this film: I have next to no knowledge of Bollywood films or conventions. And a good chunk of Bollywood/Hollywood both sends up and is inspired by both of these things, so I probably didn’t “get” it as much as all the Indian people (and other Bollywood-literate viewers) in the audience. I know that I love the idea of Bollywood movies, from what I’ve seen in random clips and in The Guru (shut up, it was good). Part of my disappointment in Bollywood/Hollywood stems from this ignorance on my own part, and part of it is the movie’s fault. But it definitely has some great moments and a fun atmosphere that it sustains for its brisk 90-minute running time (about half the length of an actual Bollywood movie).

The movie begins by introducing us to Rahul (Rahul Khanna), a handsome young Indian man who is engaged to a white woman named Kimberly (Jessica Paré), much to the despair of his traditional mother and grandmother. Then, in a hilarious departure from the My Big Fat Greek Wedding/”white person joins the ethnic family”-comedy template, Kimberly is killed in a “levitation accident” and nothing more is thought of her… except for the fact that now Rahul must find another woman to marry, or else his younger sister’s wedding will be canceled. Moping around in a bar one night, he is solicited by Sue (Lisa Ray), a feisty escort whom he ends up paying to act as his fiancée long enough for his sister to get married. Now, look out toward the horizon. See those things way off in the distance? Those are the plot developments. You can see them coming from 200 miles away. But admittedly, that’s part of the fun.

The good news: how staggeringly attractive and likable the two leads are; Dina Pathak’s hilarious turn as Rahul’s theatre-quoting grandmother; what were apparently dead-on send-ups of Bollywood clichés (judging from audience reaction); and the abundance of joyful musical sequences. The bad news: the lifeless editing of those musical sequences, awkward pacing, inconsistent character development, and terrible sound (though that could easily have been the theater’s fault). I have a soft spot for second-generation ethnic comedies, so I enjoyed the Indian-Canadian family comedy in Bollywood/Hollywood. But somewhere between trying to be both Bollywood and Hollywood, and simultaneously trying to spoof them both, it gets a bit lost and never finds its focus.

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