March 07, 2005

MOVIES: Touch of Pink (Ian Iqbal Rashid, 2004)

Alim (Jimi Mistry) is a gay man living in London who is horrified to learn that his mother, Nuru (Suleka Matthew), is coming to visit from Toronto; Alim has never told his mother that he's gay, or that he lives with his boyfriend Giles (Kristen Holden-Reid), and is horrified at how she will react to the news.

We're in familiar territory here, with another farce about parents who aren't as conservative or as clueless as their kids think they are. The novel twists this time are that the family is Muslim, of Indian descent (that's Asian Indian, not "the John Wayne kind," as one character puts it); and that Alim spends much of the time consulting with his imaginary friend/spirit guide, who offers advice on dealing with the crises in Alim's life.

That guide is the spirit of Cary Grant, whose attitude and style are nicely captured by Kyle MacLachlan. More precisely, of course, we're seeing the attitude and style of "Cary Grant," the on-screen persona that Cary Grant the actor perfected over the years.

The presence of Grant as a guru to a young gay man is a fascinating choice, given the continuing speculation about Grant's own romantic life (some insist that he and Randolph Scott were more than housemates). The movie never directly addresses that speculation; the closest it comes is when Grant refers to gay men as "your people" (he later uses the same phrase in a different conversation, this time referring to Indians).

But Grant's final scene, in which Alim, who's found a happy ending (as if you had any doubt), dismisses Grant, whose advice he no longer needs -- well, that scene takes on some really interesting overtones if we read it as a conversation between a man who was forced by the mores of his time to stay closeted, and a man of the current era who's able to live a more honest life.

The movie's a fluffy trifle, with a touch of the charm you'd find in Grant's own romantic comedies; it's certainly not up to the level of Grant's best movies, but it's a sweet diversion. Suleka Matthew is appropriately imperious as Nuru, and it's great fun to watch her discover her own softer side. Mistry and Holden-Reid aren't particularly convincing as a couple, and each comes off better in his scenes with the movie's other characters. MacLachlan's Cary Grant is a delight, and the best reason to watch the movie.

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