I’m always fascinated with indie-darling romantic tales, wistfully chipping away at honest portrayals of relationships with vulnerable characters. Perhaps its because we’re apart of a generation, fascinated with watching and examining human life. A rational explanation, I reckon, is not to be obtained anytime soon.
Shades of Ray, while attempting everything I mentioned prior, fails in the long run to be a genuine account of matrimony, seduction, and cultural traditions – and ends up being a fairly ordinary, Hollywood-esque clichéd romp.
Written by Jaffar Mahmood, the film follows American-born Ray Rehman: a bartender/aspiring actor who recently asked the woman of his dreams (Bonnie Somerville’s Noel Wilson) to marry him. She leaves the country without answering; telling Ray that she’ll have a response soon.
Unsatisfied, distraught, and perplexed Ray finds himself in a slump – even more so when he finds his Pakistani father (Javaid Rehman played by Brian George) on his doorstep one evening. The reason? Dad’s Caucasian mother threw him out after one too many quibbles.
So the story digresses: Ray can’t understand why Noel isn’t set on marriage or why his Dad can’t work things out with his loving mother. To complicate matters, Javaid begins to play matchmaker, forcing Ray to meet an idealistic and gorgeous woman by the name of Sana Khaliq (Sarah Shani). The two are made for each other: both subtle, naïve – though kind figures and above all, both characters are half Caucasian and half Pakistani.
The latter similarities of racial and cultural background prove to be the driving force in the picture. Ray, since he was a child, feels he’s had to adapt to American ideals and its lifestyle. Sana is the same, changing herself, being oblivious and ignoring where she came from to avoid ridicule from others.
Shades of Ray’s ho-hum, self-loathing song and dance gets old, fast. The interracial stereotypes feel dated (even though film was made in 2008), irrelevant, and forced. Yes, the two I’m sure had some adjusting to do growing up in America – but the Pakistan people weren’t treated with as much hostility as say, African Americans or the Jewish people in Germany with Hitler’s dictatorship and episodic mass destruction.
Jaffar Mahmood’s directorial style blows every tidbit of the film out of proportion. Family ties, involving emotions of confusion and anger, are standard practices in cinema. However, there are subtler, more genuine ways to show us conflict than having an unusually stubborn father or an unbearable amount of contrived, ridiculous, and self-empathizing dialogue about “fitting in” and finding the one that truly “gets” you. Spare the disingenuous saccharine and pseudo relationships, and offer up at least some spectacle of reality.
Shades of Ray has some biting bittersweet moments in it and a couple of compelling leading performances from Zachary Levi and Sarah Shani, but the film lacks any sort of cohesive or most importantly, significant story.