Ed. Note: We've been keeping WW Finder co-editor Saundra Sorenson plenty busy the last week with film reviews: She's taken sneak peeks at Never Forever (which opens today at the Hollywood Theatre) and Brick Lane (which starts its second week at Fox Tower). Here are her takes:
A timeless tale of the lengths some will go to in order to secure a baby. Well, the aesthetic is timeless—from Sophie (Vera Farmiga), the perfectly coiffed, retro-fabulous lawyer's wife, to the grainy takes of Manhattan and Queens, a charmingly discombobulated mood is cast over the domestic drama. But as the WASPy, well-intentioned housewife attempts to soothe her suicidal husband (David Lee McInnis) by bringing a child into their sometimes happy, sometimes vacant marriage, things fall apart logistically. Farmiga plays a self-sacrificing lady of comfort who, upon hearing of her husband's sterility, pursues an immigrant baby-daddy (Jung-woo Ha) who slightly resembles him—which is to say he is young and Korean. And Farmiga plays it earnest and endearing, redeeming an underwritten role through simple, honest delivery that makes for easily digested viewing. Her clinical coital sessions with Ha get breathy and believable, but clipped character development means that the fallout—a sudden love affair between uptown woman and impressively fluent immigrant, a quick marital showdown—are the easy way out, and so ring hollow. Director Gina Kim has internalized the American formula too much, it seems, and bowed to short attention spans in an episodic, quick-paced romp that would've been better as a languid character sketch. R.
SAUNDRA SORENSON. Hollywood Theatre
(This review is a counterpoint to Andy Davis' print critique, which can be found here.)
You'd be forgiven for assuming that any tale of a bright-eyed girl forced into an arranged marriage is bound to end with either a tired feminist critique of culture clash or a crushing acknowledgment of duty. But throw in a little character depth and tacked-on, half-hearted use of images from 9/11, and you have a nuanced (if extremely disjointed) sketch of modern-day diaspora.
When 17-year-old Bangladeshi Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is carted off from her native country, it is to a boor of a husband (Satish Kaushik). But in a break from formula, least he's amusing, a sort of Bengali Willy Loman with a sunnier outlook. For the next few years (we assume), Nazneen wastes away in East London estate housing, waiting for that final trip home. She easily gives in to an affair with a dashing clothing vendor who is young, progressive and, like Nazneen and most of those who populate her world, Sylhet Muslim. And she reads letters from her freewheeling younger sister and mourns a life she's not even halfway through, then finds herself suddenly, inexplicably at home in a nation hell-bent on both racial profiling and Bush effigy-burning.
But the jump from Nazneen's childhood to her early-onset middle age is sloppy, and when we first see long-suffering Nazneen at home with her family, she is so detached that it's easy to assume her daughters are both stepchildren she's just stumbled across. In a classic case of a 400-plus-page tome (Monica Ali's source material) being boiled down to cinema-ready running length, the story's most compelling points—community meetings of the local, sloppily-forged Muslim brotherhood, the development of Nazneen's relationship with her children and lover—don't get enough screen time. Shame, since those brief community meetings give insightful glimpses into the politics of a much-maligned expat population.
While the story could use more focus, the film could easily glide by on visuals—props to any cinematographer who can address East London with the same sense of wonderment as he does the wilds of Bangladesh. PG-13.
SAUNDRA SORENSON. Fox Tower.