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Review: 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist'

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Kiefer Sutherland plays capitalist mentor to Riz Ahmed’s conflicted Changez


What does he teach them? That’s the central question of the film, but it’s obscured by the addition of the kidnapping scenario, the riot, and a deflating love story. In the novel, Changez’ love interest Erica is a fascinating, fragile young American writer he meets at Princeton, whose grief over her childhood sweetheart’s death is re-ignited in a tragic way after September 11. Yet in the film, an oddly frumpy Kate Hudson plays Erica as all quirk and little depth, who uses Changez as a subject in her pretentious photography. Their love affair lacks chemistry on screen, and because it plays out in flashbacks intercut throughout the film, it weighs down the entire experience.

If only we saw more of what Nair excels at: sweeping shots of Lahore in all its dusty, golden-tinted glory, and pulsating party scenes filled with intoxicating Pakistani music and dance numbers. This is the woman, after all, who brought Westerners Salaam Bombay! and Monsoon Wedding. She’s also a trusted voice in depictions of the South Asian-American experience (The Namesake). Despite Nair’s mastery, and Hamid’s involvement with the script, The Reluctant Fundamentalist falls short of Hamid’s new classic, a casualty of trying to film the unfilmable, perhaps.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Dir. Mira Nair; writ. Ami Boghani, Mohsin Hamid, William Wheeler; feat. Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland (R)
At Santikos Bijou and IFC On Demand

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