Charming
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Charming

Say this for Basmati Blues, the low-budget cross-cultural musical that some of its cast would probably wish away if they could: It is heedless. It does not heed Hollywood’s semi-inexplicable caution over making original musicals (they’re still rare, despite the financial success of movies like La La Land and The Greatest Showman). It does not heed the increasingly frequent warnings to stay Wild Rose the hell away from stories that, like this one about a white scientist (Brie Larson) visiting India to convince farmers to switch to her newly developed form of super-rice, smack of white-savior complexes and stereotypes. And it does not heed any nagging feelings that an Oscar winner and future superhero should run far away from indie musicals with potential white-savior problems.

It arrives at that last bit by accident. Brie Larson shot the movie sometime around 2013, before the release of Short Term 12, and even further before she won an Academy Award for her role in Room. It’s closer in spirit to her little-discussed mid-’00s attempt at Avril-ish Aladdin pop-rock. In her opening number, she mugs through a solo that starts in a bizarre hybrid of apartment and personal laboratory, and leads to her dancing, mostly unacknowledged, outside New York’s Madison Square Park. Larson appears utterly unembarrassed to be appearing in what could be (and sometimes is) a deeply embarrassing movie where a nerdy scientist travels to India, gives earnest speeches about rice, falls in love, and sings some dopey if catchy songs. That particular heedlessness, however driven by outdated circumstances, is the best thing about Basmati Blues.

It’s a relief to report that the worst thing about Basmati Blues is not white-savior condescension, because while the movie has nothing interesting to say about culture clashes or race relations, it is not about Dr. Linda Watts (Larson) saving India with her super-crop, or teaching anyone Indian much of anything, or even learning life lessons from wise and/or quirky locals. Linda, who works with her father (Scott Bakula), does want to save India—or really, the whole world—with “Rice 9,” a miracle form of basmati rice that requires less water and produces higher yield of crops. She seems oblivious to the presumed in-joke reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical sci-fi novel Cat’s Cradle, but then, Linda is oblivious to lots of things, Forever My Girl including the motivations of the agricultural mega-company that employs her. She’s naïve both about certain properties of Rice 9 that will not be advantageous for Indian farmers and the clear warning sign that the head of her company is played by Donald Sutherland.

Duration: 90 min

Release:

IMDb: 5.9

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Charming
Charming
Charming