“You’re going to sing now?” – Basmati Blues (Film Review)

‘Hitch your wagon to a star’ is a phrase used to define when someone tries to succeed by starting a relationship with someone already successful. It’s a term that also defines a specific time of film release- a film made years ago, left on a shelf and long forgotten due to its average quality, yet is released in some format when one of its leads has a big break.  Serena (starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) was filmed in 2012, released 2015. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (starring Amber Heard) was filmed in 2006, released in the US in 2013. And now Basmati Blues, filmed in 2013 yet only just released now. The main reason why it appears to be being released now is because it’s star is Brie Larson.

Filmed after her scene-stealing turn as Envy Adams in 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World, around the time of 2013’s incredible Short Term 12 and a couple of years before 2015’s Oscar-winning performance in The RoomBasmati Blues isn’t like any of those films. In fact, it’s unlike many other films made this side of 2010. There is something immensely dated about all the proceedings that occur in Basmati Blues. More than anything, it’s just a very odd film. But not odd enough to earn cult-status nor good enough to really justify seeking out.

Maybe there’s a reason that a musical love story about a scientist called Linda (Larson) who creates genetically modified rice, then gets sent to India by her evil boss (Donald Sutherland) to sell the rice to the rural farmers, whereupon she falls into a love-hate dynamic with a scientist-turned-farmer called Rajit (Utkarsh Ambudkar) didn’t make it onto our screens until now..?

The trailer surfaced on the interweb recently and was met with instantaneous disdain at what appeared to be the film’s utilisation of the ‘White Saviour’ trope. The filmmakers responded to these criticisms by proclaiming that the trailer didn’t do the film justice – supposedly the trailer needlessly emphasized these aspects and ignored the fact that, at it’s very centre, the film is a love story. A noble attempt to dissuade any doubters but it’s a dynamic that is present in the film, and it’s one that’s hard to ignore when watching. Once Linda moves to India she had quirky cultural-clashes galore; learning to eat like, dance like and greet like those in her new home.

This isn’t helped by the truly see-through dialogue, which allows you to spot where the film is going from the opening moments. There’s ‘oddball’ humour, jokes about loving goats, many montages and a song that rhymes ‘physical’ with ‘kissable’. Linda’s characterisation is simultaneously dictated by the ‘fish-out-of-water’ and ‘uptight career woman’ tropes. She forms the centre of a love triangle that never gathers much momentum as it’s clear from the outset, and the film’s marketing materials, that there’s really only one option. It’s also so cutesy that it becomes irritating, yet not self-aware or knowing enough that it’s fun or love-to-hate.

I love Brie Larson. I love Donald Sutherland. I love musicals. I quite like rice.

I don’t like Basmati Blues.

Dir: Dan Baron
Scr: Dan Baron, Jeff Dorchen
CastBrie Larson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Scott Bakula, Saahil Sehgal, Tyne Daly, Donald Sutherland. 
Prd: Monique Caulfield, Jeffrey Soros
DOP: Himman Dhamija
Music: Steven Argila
Country: US
Year: 2017
Run time: 105 minutes

Basmati Blues is avalaible via digital download from 12th February.