Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
Canada/India, 2002. Different Tree Same Wood, Téléfilm Canada, Canadian Television Fund, Astral Media, The Movie Network, Super Écran, Movie Central Network, Corus Entertainment, Chum Television. Screenplay by Deepa Mehta. Cinematography by Douglas Koch. Produced by David Hamilton. Music by Sandeep Chowta. Production Design by Tamara Deverell. Costume Design by Anne Dixon, Ritu Kumar. Film Editing by Barry Farrell. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
Anticipating this film you might expect something along the lines of My Big Fat Indian Wedding, but it’s neither as zesty or zany as that sleeper hit. Instead, director Deepa Mehta has wasted the talents of a charming cast with bad direction and extremely inept sense of pacing. The young, rich son of a well-to-do Indian-Canadian family (Rahul Khanna) finds himself in need of a bride in order to uphold family tradition. Desperate for a mate and unable to consider the huge slew of possibilities that his drama-queen mother and Shakespeare-spouting grandmother bring before him, he hires a personal escort (Lisa Ray) he assumes to be of Spanish extraction and teachers her to be the perfect Indian daughter-in-law. Little does he know that there is very little he knows about his employee, including the possibilities for true romance that lie within their relationship. Well, maybe he doesn’t know it, but it’s quite obvious to us from the very beginning. This kind of inevitability would have been easy to swallow had Mehta a better sense of what kind of comedy she is directing, but her screenplay is an uncomfortable mishmash of whimsical slapstick (a character dies in a levitation accident) and more seriously-minded romantic drama that in the end features a forced and contrived moment of connection between the two leads. All this after much tiresome deliberation that thanks to horrible editing never feels like it’s going to end. An added delicacy is a selection of delightful musical numbers that give the film a feeling of watching a Bollywood classic (complete with self-effacing subtitle announcement that constantly apologize for the film’s musical nature), but the sound is recorded so flatly that they too eventually score way below their potential.