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Basmati Blues
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Snap Crackle And Dance!"
4 stars

2018 is only a little more than a month old at this point but we already have a prime contender for the title of Strangest Movie with the release of “Basmati Blues.” Here is a film that is so absolutely dotty that if I relate even a cursory description of the plot, many of you might suspect that I had myself on the head and drifted in and out of consciousness with four or five different and wildly incompatible movies playing in the background. There is no real way that I could claim it to be a “good” movie by most conventional critical standards but I have to admit to feeling a strange sort of affection for its goofball charms. After a few weeks of dreary weather and drearier movies, a bit of unabashed silliness like this cannot help but look good by comparison.

Brie Larson stars as Linda, a sweet-natured and relentlessly optimistic scientist in the employ of a Monsanto-like conglomerate named Mogil who has just teamed up with her father (Scott Bakula) to develop Rice #9, a new and genetically modified strain of rice that promises to yield significantly larger crops than ordinary rice. In order to successfully launch the rice, the couldn’t-possibly-be-evil head of Mogul (Donald Sutherland) sends her off to India to sell it to the local farmers as the first part of its rollout. Upon arriving, she meets Rajt (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a local who has been forced to leave his university studies because of a lack of money, and even though he inexplicably makes a fool out of her for no good reason, there is a spark that develops between them that becomes more complicated when local Mogil contact William (Saahil Sehgal) arrives to show her around. While Linda goes around selling the locals on Rice 9, Rajit, who has been developing a method increasing the rice crop yield utilizing stinkweed, grows suspicious and eventually discovers Mogil’s true and monstrous motivations behind their discovery. Naturally, Linda doesn’t believe him but when the truth is finally revealed to her, she abandons her position in order to lead a local revolt against the clutches of Mogil while at the same time trying to reconcile with Rajit.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the film is also a full-blown Bollywood-style musical with the character bursting into songs penned by the likes of Pearl Jam, David Baerwald and others.

On paper, “Basmati Blues” sounds bizarre at best and, with its willful appropriation of Indian culture and the aging narrative trope of the noble white person riding in on horseback (literally in this case) in order to single-handedly rescue all the poor ethnic types from losing everything in the ta-daa nick of time, borderline offensive at worst. While I cannot refute these points at all, I must admit that I did not mind them so much this time around because I inexplicably found myself getting into it on some basic fundamental level. This is not a particularly polished musical by any stretch of the imagination—the songs are pleasant without being especially memorable and the dance number are staged and filmed with no small degree of indifference—but it has a ragged energy and spirit to it that I found kind of endearing. Granted, the blend of production numbers, screwball romance, fish-out-of-water cliches and condemnation of the GMO industry will probably strike most people as an indigestible stew but I can see this potentially developing a cult audience somewhere down the road.

For most people, the primary attraction will be the presence of Brie Larson and the primary question will be “What the hell is Brie Larson doing in this in the first place?” As it turns out, this film was actually made in 2013, long before Larson ascended to true stardom with her Oscar-winning role in “Room,” and has been sitting on the shelf ever since. Under normal circumstances, the release of a long-shelved film to piggyback on the newfound stardom of one of its then-unknown stars usually tends to be an embarrassment for them (remember when “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” was plucked from obscurity and given a wide re-release a few years after being made once co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger became big box-office names?) but in this case, I am not so sure. This will surely not go down as one of the great performances of her career but while her singing and dancing skills are, respectively, adequate and rudimentary, she is clearly having a lot of fun being front and center in a film that allows her to do those things almost as a lark. Her work in “Basmati Blues” is much like the film as a whole—not great by any means but undeniably charming nevertheless.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=32022&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/08/18 18:12:50
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Directed by
  Dan Baron

Written by
  Dan Baron
  Jeff Dorchen

  Brie Larson
  Utkarsh Ambudkar
  Scott Bakula
  Saahil Sehgal
  Tyne Daly
  Donald Sutherland

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