Starring: Brie Larson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Donald Sutherland
Director: Dan Baron
Running Time: 106 mins
Basmati Blues is an American film about a scientist who is sent to India to sell a new genetically modified form of rice to local farmers, however she is unaware of the true nature of the product.
I cannot comprehend how a movie like Basmati Blues made it all the way through to release, simply because it’s a shoddily-made, unoriginal and painfully basic film right the way through. Couple that with the bizarre appearance of A-listers like Brie Larson and Donald Sutherland, as well as a collection of truly awful musical numbers throughout, and you have yourself one of the strangest and worst films of recent years.
There’s so much that this movie does wrong, but first, I want to know why on earth India is the subject of so many awful, stupid Hollywood movies. Normally with a character put completely out of their depth as they experience a new culture, all these films (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Hundred Foot Journey and many more) seem infuriatingly content with thrusting random colours and chaos at your face, attempting to pass it off as a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience.
Of course, this has nothing to do with India, and if you’ve been to India, or have watched any Indian movies, you’ll know there’s a little bit more to the country than crazy traffic and random colours (although it is very vibrant nonetheless). The big problem here is a painfully superficial and basic presentation of the country again and again, and Basmati Blues is just as guilty of that as any other film.
I’ll admit, giving a deep and worthy insight into an entire culture isn’t easy to do in an hour and a half, but there is definitely a lot more that can be done than what we see here, which is effectively Brie Larson – an apparently brilliant scientist who is still seemingly unaware of anything else in the world around her – walking around gazing in pretend awe at things and people here and there, without any further emphasis on something a little deeper or more characteristic of the culture to grab you as a viewer.
Another big issue is in the form of the movie’s central romance, which is absolutely ridiculous. I’m all for a pleasant and easy-going love story, but when your film tows the line of the formula so closely, with a meet-cute, an initially rocky relationship, a will-they-won’t-they moment, and then the inevitable conclusion, there’s absolutely nothing to see here, and with the further problem of the terrible characterisation through and through, Basmati Blues gives you no reason to care about anybody on screen, as such making it a tedious watch from beginning to end.
The performances, too, aren’t exceptional. The terrible screenplay notwithstanding, Brie Larson definitely has more to give than her performance here, which is infuriatingly innocent and superficial, failing to establish anything vaguely relatable or interesting about her character. Meanwhile, Utkarsh Ambudkar plays a random guy who becomes the main love interest, and does nothing to make himself stand out on screen, while Donald Sutherland is drafted in with an almost cartoonishly villainous performance as the big boss of the rice company that’s claiming to save the jobs of all Indian farmers.
And then, the final nail in the coffin is the fact that Basmati Blues, for whatever reason, is a musical. Now, there’s a difference between paying homage to Bollywood and putting in a few random musical numbers, and I’m afraid it’s the latter that this film is generally focused on, featuring four or five tedious pop songs that sound nothing like Bollywood, and are so bad in Western terms that nobody on either side of the planet would ever take any joy in watching them.
The actors do sing well occasionally, and the few moments where we get a bit of energetic dancing and choreography adds a bit more life into the musical numbers, but they’re generally a painful and jarring element of an overall terrible film, and that’s why I’m giving Basmati Blues a 4.3.