Touch of Pink Movie Review

The infiltration of pop culture nostalgia into every square inch of our entertainment landscape is, depressingly, a foregone conclusion. And Touch of Pink, Ian Iqbal Rashid's pleasant but conventional dramedy about a South Asian gay man hiding his homosexual lifestyle from his traditional Muslim mother, is yet another entry in the burgeoning canon of wistful film-referential movies that think it's clever to drop obvious, pointless allusions to stars of bygone eras. You see, Rashid's film isn't just about a guy trying to hide his true colors from his sure-to-be-disapproving mother; it's a film about a guy trying to hide his true colors from his sure-to-be-disapproving mother with the help of his loyal, dapper imaginary friend Cary Grant. Cue incessant eye-rolling... now.

Alim (Jimi Mistry, of last year's The Guru) has abandoned his widowed mother and stultifying old life in Toronto for the swinging sexual freedom of London, where he currently works as a film-set photographer and lives with his handsome UNICEF economist boyfriend Giles (Kristen Holden-Reid). All is great in Alim's life, except that he desperately wishes he could share his good fortune with his conservative Muslim family. This loneliness drives Alim to Cary Grant, who as personified by Kyle MacLachlan (affecting a decent replica of the actor's distinctive voice while simultaneously parodying his suave mannerisms) is a dashing gentleman always ready to boost Alim's confidence with advice, compliments, or a pithy quotation from The Philadelphia Story or Gunga Din. Meanwhile, Alim's mother Nura (Suleka Mathew) is woefully jealous of her sister, who is staging a lavish wedding for her son (who has sexual issues of his own), and tries to persuade Alim to leave London - a place that holds shameful secrets for Nura - and return home to fulfill his duties as a good son by getting married and producing grandchildren.

The culture clash that ensues is straight out of countless other Hollywood confections (including Mistry's funnier East is East, which employed an East-West dichotomy rather than this film's gay-straight schema), though such derivation is part of writer/director Rashid's plan. Touch of Pink is designed as both a straightforward romantic comedy about learning to accept yourself and your loved ones, and as a fond homage to old Hollywood charm, passion, and star-power. While Alim attempts to maintain his façade of heterosexuality, Grant - who radiates the poise and self-assuredness Alim longs to possess - pops up from time to time decked out in square '50s sweaters and suits while arguing for screwball solutions to Alim's problems, thus turning the film into something of a tribute to Grant's finest effervescent films. Occasionally - such as a scene involving Alim and Grant watching a movie in matching stripped pajamas (with Grant even buttoning the top button of his shirt) - the film successfully achieves a droll visual incongruity that matches its straightforward story about the allure (and danger) of maintaining appearances.

What it can't achieve, however, is a measure of originality or surprise. Rashid's script so rigorously adheres to a predictable three-act structure (guy hides boyfriend from mom, guy alienates boyfriend and mom upon publicly admitting he's gay, guy wins back mom and boyfriend and lives happily ever after) that only the most novice filmgoer will fail to stay ahead of the leisurely plot. And despite suitably solid performances by the entire cast, even fewer will find much humor sprinkled throughout Alim's frustratingly ordinary de-closeting experiences. That Alim must ultimately break free from his fictional Cary Grant - and, by extension, his classic movie dreams - so he can embrace the real world is foretold by the film's initial scenes, and thus the film's minor twists play out in a pleasantly benign, but thoroughly unexceptional, manner. Rashid clearly believes that cheekily employing a fake Cary Grant and old-school Hollywood tropes (transitional fade-outs, swelling melodramatic music) makes up for the banality of Touch of Pink's inoffensive, laugh-free coming-out narrative. Color me unconvinced.

A making-of featurette and commentary from many members of the cast and crew round out the DVD.

We're pithed off!


Touch of Pink Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2004


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