Oh, how we could have laughed had Touch of Pink been a touch more pink and a lot less beige.
I mean, this should have been a hoot: it’s a British-Canadian coming-out comedy about a Muslim experiencing delusional visions of Cary Grant. How do you fall flat with a setup like that? Consider the potential to make unapologetic jokes about ethnicity, religion, sexuality and overbearing mothers. There’s so much wasted effort, especially considering Kyle MacLachlan, who portrays the imaginary Grant, does such a dead-on impersonation of the famed actor that you’ll want to pop another bag of popcorn and rush home to watch North by Northwest or To Catch a Thief.
Touch of Pink is what happens to wacky, outrageous concepts when writers and directors think big and act small. The movie was both scripted and directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid, who apparently couldn’t do justice to his own vision.
The plot follows the basic coming-out tale pattern: A gay man is afraid to come out to his narrow-minded family, so he hides his sexuality from visiting relatives, which makes his boyfriend feel betrayed. We’ve been here before.
In this telling, however, the gay man, Alim, is a Pakistani-Canadian living in London. His mother, Nuru, is a devout Muslim. His boyfriend, Giles, is, in Alim’s words, a “toffee-nosed” Brit.
Alim copes with all this mess through the aid of an imaginary friend, which happens to be the spirit of Cary Grant. Imagine if Harvey was not a bunny but a dead, famous actor, and Jimmy Stewart was Pakistani and gay. OK, sort of.
I love the complexities of this play on the whole “dare-to-be-gay” theme, but Rashid’s style and humor are ultimately too bland and too low-key to make it all work. Instead of skewering the whole situation, he taps it lightly with a blunt stick, barely scratching the surface.
A few of the scenes with Alim’s Canadian relatives are funny, but just as many are dull and void of laughs. Likewise, Alim’s clashes with Giles and his mother lack passion, which makes for a neither funny nor poignant film.
Rashid likely treads too lightly with his subject matter out of fear of offending. I’d rather have been offended than indifferent. By playing it too safe, Touch of Pink goes nowhere new. For a gay-Canadian-British-Pakistani-Muslim-romantic-comedy with Cary Grant hallucinations, that’s disappointing.
Showing at the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main Street, Royal Oak. Call 248-263-2111.
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].