East Is East
*** GM
Starring: Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Ian Aspinall, Emil Marwa, Jimi Mistry, Chris Bisson, Raji James, Archie Panjabi, Jordan Routledge


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Often, when I see a film like this that isn't a huge Hollywood thing and is showing at a theater that only shows the arty stuff, I get this sense that "I'm learnin'" and the film is automatically going to be a better film than most of the crap Hollywood puts out - or at least it'll be more intelligent, if not more enjoyable. But what we've got here is your standard story of an oppressive father and his children who are dying to get out from under his thumb - only the twist in the mix is that he's not the oppressively violent Christian family values man, but he's an oppressively violent Muslim family values man named George (Om Puri). It's still pretty good, though.

George is a Pakistani married to a British woman named Ella (Linda Bassett) and father to a whole mess of kids. Nazir (Ian Aspinall) runs out in the middle of his arranged marriage ceremony and is thus disowned, Maneer (Emil Marwa) is a daddy's boy derisively called "Gandhi" by his siblings, Tariq (Jimi Mistry) is a swinging disco bachelor type who is secretly dating a British gal - which is hypocritically forbidden by his father, Saleem (Chris Bisson) is the college boy supposedly pursuing an engineering degree while secretly taking art classes, Abdul (Raji James) is concerned only with doing what he thinks is the right thing, even if he's not happy about it, Meenah (Archie Panjabi) is a tomboy soccer freak who is hardly behaving the way a good Paki woman should, and Sajid (Jordan Routledge) is a weird little kid that never removes his parka and has to get circumcized at far too late an age. Lots of characters, lots of hijinks.

It's interesting to see the culture clash here - something I'm never really exposed to as a lame honky. But what I am familiar with is being scared to be around a father figure - although not to the extent that I feared getting my ass beat in, but just having this god-awful tension in the air all the time whenever he was around - and that is conveyed well, especially when the fact that their mother is generally aware of most of the hijinks and has no problem with it is added to the mix. It somehow managed to hit home with me. And I ain't British OR Paki! Go figure!

There's some pretty funny stuff in here - such as all the kids getting together to chow down on hot dogs and other meat products secretively - but some of the more serious stuff doesn't quite work as well. The violence of George was a little overdone - I'd think the point could have been made with a less savage beating of his wife. It just seemed a bit awkward. Other than that, however, it's an intelligent and interesting film that explores issues you don't really get into very much. Despite the different cultures at play here, the basic premise remains the simple notion that fathers who talk and listen to their kids are better parents than those that think 'because its a tradition' and 'because I said so' are logical ways to silence all debate.

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