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Arbus in wonderland (Abbott Genser/Picturehouse)

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COFFEE DATE
Stewart Wade’s Coffee Date began life as a short film, and it’s easy to see how the setup, in which seemingly straight, 30-something computer programmer Todd (Jonathan Bray) is duped into going on a blind date with an effervescent gay hairstylist named Kelly (Wilson Cruz), would make a good blackout sketch. Sure, the mistaken-identity twist is telegraphed in a too-pointed prologue featuring Todd’s prankish couch-potato brother (Jonathan Silverman), and the dialogue thuds here and there — both men are allegedly hardcore cinephiles, which makes their shared love of Amadeus a bit suspicious — but the contrast between Bray’s swivel-necked anxiety and Cruz’s sweet-smoothie act works nicely. Bray’s brittle twitchiness is funny; there’s a bit of the young Albert Brooks in his spooked line readings. The pair hit it off and become moviegoing buddies, and the remainder of the film is devoted to Todd’s resultant sexual-identity crisis. Through a series of Three’s Company–style misunderstandings, everyone in Todd’s life becomes convinced that he’s gay. Our hero, meanwhile, can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something to their assertions, especially since he’s becoming progressively stuck on his new Milos Forman–loving friend. In allowing its protagonist to be genuinely confused rather than merely self-deluding, Wade’s script exhibits real and unexpected compassion. Unfortunately, Todd is the only well-drawn character among a gaggle of thin supporting players (why must Kelly’s gay pals all be mincing queens?), and eventually, the contrivances required to keep the plot wheels grinding become exhausting. How disappointing that a film that hints at the fluid, nonbinary natures of love and attraction should labor so hard to knot its own loose ends. (Regent Showcase) (Adam Nayman)

COLOR OF THE CROSS Jesus Christ has been so often represented as Caucasian, even blond (in defiance of Judean geography), that writer-director Jean-Claude La Marre’s retelling of the Passion and Crucifixion with an African in the lead is a fair proposal, and certainly welcome. (In the late 1960s, there was a movie called Black Jesus, with Woody Strode, but even there, the title’s provocation was metaphorical: Strode played a radical African leader modeled on Patrice Lumumba, facing execution.) Here, the interpretation is heartfelt and mostly straightforward. La Marre and his team accomplish a strong period atmosphere with a low budget, on HD video. There are, nonetheless, two big problems: For one, La Marre himself plays Jesus — and though in scenes of high emotion, he has the needed acting chops, good looks and presence, in more everyday moments, he is visibly stretched by his double duties as actor and director, and comes off too solemn and composed, like a static image of Christ, when the role cries out for a more layered, lifelike sense of the man. A second problem slips in behind the race issue. Although La Marre avoids the snares that fetched up the Mel Gibson Passion — the Jewish authorities in this case are earnestly divided about handing this interesting heretic over to their Roman oppressors — racial tensions between white and black are gradually overemphasized. Christ’s color is made central to his persecution. All of his tormentors comment on it. This unbalances the story thematically, transforming it into a too-specific tale of historic injustice rather than one of divinely benevolent sacrifice on everybody’s behalf. (Magic Johnson Theatres) (F.X. Feeney)

 COME EARLY MORNING That Joey Lauren Adams hasn’t done much serious acting since Kevin Smith’s 1997 Chasing Amy is discouraging. The upside is that she’s used this dry period to write and direct a chamber piece based on her own upbringing in the South, and it’s not half bad. No new narrative ground is broken, but there’s a lived-in, musical feel to this tale of a fiercely independent, thoroughly screwed-up building contractor (Ashley Judd, in a pleasing return to the directness of her first significant role, in Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise) trudging through life emotionally beholden to her mess of a family. Still a hapless daddy’s girl to a hopelessly remote father (the wonderfully laconic Scott Wilson), Judd’s Lucy is so busy demeaning herself with one-night stands with total strangers that when a good guy (Jeffrey Donovan) takes an interest, she hardly knows what to do with him. Adams works well with an intelligently chosen cast (Diane Ladd and Stacy Keach are both great in small but significant roles). Her pacing is sensitive and astute; and she’s been smart enough to hire cinematographer Tim Orr, who brings the same lyrically muted lighting to Come Early Morning as he did to George Washington. Lucy’s reactive temperament will be painfully familiar to many women who fend for themselves in a man’s world: Judd’s delicate portrayal draws a pointed distinction between Lucy’s volatile disposition and her genuine independence. (Sunset 5; Westside Pavilion; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)

COMMUNE The standard line on ’60s alternative culture, now that our governments have spent billions and decades stamping it out, is that hippie idealism (extinct) was a naive joke. Now comes a documentary about a commune that struggled and still survives. It’s a good thing Black Bear Ranch was planted, in 1968, at the end of a 9-mile dirt road in the wilds of California’s Siskiyou County: That meant the dwellers would be more committed and the raids fewer. Producer-director Jonathan Berman shows naked young tree-huggers and the wizened rads they became, with names like Cedar, Mahaj and Coyote (yes, Peter the actor), each with hardship stories, none with serious regrets. Free love and jealousy, anarchy and power struggles, growing your own and sometimes starving, the Black Bear communers ran up against every challenge you’d imagine. And the freaks who stayed did so because freedom ultimately worked for them — “I had a lot of mothers,” says one girl. Sensitive to the complexities of the lifestyle, Berman doesn’t present it as the solution to the world’s ills, just as an option that can’t be laughed off. A nice counterpoint is the soundtrack, with psychedelic trip music and bottleneck blues by noted wild-ass guitarist Elliott Sharp. It’s good to hear people talking about openheartedness without irony. (Grande 4-Plex) (Greg Burk)

COPYING BEETHOVEN Yet another entry in the “assistant learns about life from a tyrannical boss” genre — call it “the devil writes Ra-da-da-daaa.” In Copying Beethoven, the goodhearted underling is Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), a (fictional) young music student who helps the cantankerous — and often cruel — composer (Ed Harris) orchestrate his “Ode to Joy.” Even if one is willing to forgive this hokey premise (the Ninth Symphony’s premiere reimagined as an old MGM “let’s put on a show” picture, with Ludwig van Beethoven in the Mickey Rooney role), the script’s faux-lofty exchanges about art and music — performed in English, but with a mush of different accents — are dramatically flat and reveal nothing of note about the man of genius. The long dialogue scenes between composer and pupil are unintentionally comic, since Beethoven was stone-deaf in 1824, when the movie takes place. Harris looks great in high collars and a flowing gray wig, but Agnieszka Holland’s film, despite the requisite period finery, is an inelegant snooze. One is left yearning for the overheated melodrama of Bernard Rose’s 1994 Beethoven biopic, Immortal Beloved, which was trashy, but fun — and had better music (copying Beethoven’s Kecskemet Symphony Orchestra does not impress). Say what you want about Gary Oldman, at least he never dropped his britches to make a “moon”-light sonata crack. Da-da-da-dumb. (Manhattan Village Mall; Monica 4-Plex; Playhouse 7; Sunset 5; Town Center 5; Westside Pavilion) (James C. Taylor)

THE ENIGMA WITH A STIGMA If Max (Michael Naughton) didn’t have enough to worry about just weeks before his wedding, he’s recently developed a growth on his chest that, at the very least, is disgusting and, at the very worst, could be cancer. That’s the unsightly premise that kick-starts writer-director Rhett Smith’s shabby, improv-heavy comedy, which follows Max as he discovers what his new appendage is and then uses it as the impetus to re-examine his life. Clearly inspired by Christopher Guest’s finely tuned mockumentary style, The Enigma With a Stigma — even the title isn’t funny — traffics in hand-held camerawork, ad lib dialogue, and self-important buffoons whose utter sincerity makes them completely ridiculous. But despite all the similar techniques at play, it’s shocking how unlike a Guest film this is — slogging through The Enigma With a Stigma is to be reminded that those movies’ illusion of off-the-cuff naturalness actually requires a rigorous amount of skill on the part of the filmmakers and actors. Max’s journey takes him to a support group and a mysterious small town whose inhabitants share his affliction, but the movie rarely ventures anywhere truly comedic, because Smith hasn’t come up with delicious enough situations or characters, and the assorted minimally famous comedians assembled (including Taylor Negron, Mindy Sterling and SNL’s Kristen Wiig) mostly flounder in awkward pauses where no hilarity can ensue. Don’t waste your time with this amateur hour — Guest’s next film, For Your Consideration, will be out in a week. (Music Hall) (Tim Grierson)

GO FUCK Profound and joyously silly at the same time, Steve Anderson’s documentary about our most potent secular blasphemy comes at the word and subject from every conceivable angle: Its awesome power to offend the listener and to empower its utterer. Its obscure etymological origins. Its centrality to issues of free speech — from Lady Chatterley and Lenny Bruce to Dick Cheney’s admonition to Senator Patrick Leahy to “Go fuck yourself” and the FCC’s decision, on the very same day, to impose stinging fines on broadcasters permitting the word’s utterance over the public airwaves. The determination of right-wingers to suppress it and of comedians to shout it from the hilltops. Witnesses from all sides are consulted, including the mealy-mouthed Pat Boone, who uses his own name as a cuss word (“Aw... Boone!”), and renowned scatologist and serial fuck-sayer Kevin Smith. Add into this heady mix Dennis Prager, who thinks the word will destroy the American empire as surely as the Visigoths destroyed that of Rome, and potty-talkin’ Ice-T, who would probably be just fine with that, and a mere monosyllable emerges as a heavily disputed cultural totem and taboo. Prize moment: when an estimate of the film’s own potential fines — per “fuck” — reaches into the hundreds of millions. (Nuart) (John Patterson)

{mosimage}PICK FUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUSFUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUS Mention Diane Arbus’ name in a crowded room and you’re likely to find that, some 35 years after her barbiturate-induced suicide, opinions still diverge as to whether the influential photographer was a genius or a mere voyeur, a sympathetic eye cast upon society’s outcasts or a glorified carnival barker beckoning us into her pictorial sideshow. So it’s probably for the best that, in bringing Patricia Bosworth’s acclaimed Arbus biography to the screen, director Steven Shainberg and writer Erin Cressida Wilson (who previously collaborated on Secretary) have effectively disposed with Arbus’ brilliant career to instead focus on the three-month period preceding her decision to become a professional photographer. “Imaginary” is the operative word here, as Shainberg and Wilson take fragmentary details from the life of Arbus (Nicole Kidman) — that she was the daughter of a prominent Manhattan furrier; that she assisted her husband, the photographer Allan Arbus (very well played by Ty Burrell), in their home portrait studio — and fold them into a Buñuelian dreamscape about “Dee-ann”?’s relationship with her upstairs neighbor (Robert Downey, Jr.), a hirsute circus “freak” who leads her down a rabbit hole of the disfigured and dispossessed, sparking her creative fire.

Fur wants to capture on film that most ephemeral of things — the moment at which an artist comes into his or her own sense of being an artist — though its ideas on the subject aren’t always profound. I for one cringed during the scene of Arbus sitting on a bus, itemizing a list of potential subjects (nudists — check, Siamese twins — check, check) in her journal. But much of the film is as strange and oddly beautiful as one of Arbus’ own photographs, bold in its attempt to find new ways of cracking the biopic chestnut and sensitive in its portrayal of a 1950s woman who, like so many of her contemporaries, finds herself imprisoned in a Good Housekeeping nightmare. Kidman, ever adventurous in her choice of roles, is surprisingly the weak link here — she looks and sounds the part, and yet there’s something too studied and remote, too passive about her Arbus. Some will say that she’s merely playing a woman who felt detached from her own life; I would argue that she is a talented actress who has failed to find the center of a difficult role. Downey, however, is remarkable, suppressing his trademark jitters and ticks and delivering a performance of heartbreaking sensitivity, no matter that he spends almost all of his screen time staring out from behind a forest of head-to-toe body hair. Proof, as any good photographer knows, that the eyes truly are the windows to the soul. (Sunset 5; Monica 4-Plex) (Scott Foundas)

A GOOD YEAR Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) may be out a job, but all is not lost for our haute-bourgeois hero! A letter, lately delivered from a notary in Provence, bears news of an inheritance from his departed uncle Henry (Albert Finney): the shabby-chic chateau where Max summered as a lad, vineyard, caretakers and clichés included. Such is the setup of Peter Mayle’s novel A Good Year, the perfect diversion for misogynistic investment bankers whose personal assistants neglected to pack the new issue of Vanity Fair in their Vuitton weekenders. Soon to be ignored at a multiplex near you, the film version arrives courtesy of screenwriter Marc Klein and that unsurpassed master of the effervescent romcom, Sir Ridley Scott. And so, pretty people do lovely things in picturesque locales rendered weirdly oppressive by the filmmaker, as Max struggles to enjoy the simple life. Scott can do mayhem, dystopia and the rampaging alien (extraterrestrial, android, Somali, Demi Moore) with the best of them, but the breezy touch is not his forte. (Citywide) (Nathan Lee)

HARSH TIMES Cops-gone-wild movies and TV shows are the Angry White Guy counterpoint to thug-life melodramas: fantasies of abusing rather than seizing power, operating above the law rather than outside it. This caffeinated fit of antihero worship — the directorial debut of screenwriter David Ayer, who made detective with his bad-cop thrillers Training Day and Dark Blue — straddles the genres: a ballistic ex-Ranger (Christian Bale), strung taut as razor wire, misses his shot at the LAPD, only to get drafted by Homeland Security for dirty work in Colombia. To let off steam, he persuades his wary but susceptible buddy (Freddy Rodriguez) to blow off his job search and upwardly mobile girlfriend (Eva Longoria) for a substance-abusing sojourn through South-Central. A south-of-the-border invasion ensues, followed by the inevitable cathartic violence. But whatever political statement Ayer intended to make with his Gulf War veteran–turned–human time bomb is swamped by the movie’s obnoxious badass envy. Ayer sets Bale’s bad guy up as a racist hothead yet marvels at his macho nerve, and the actor responds with a gloating display of American-psycho fireworks, the kind of vein-popping showboating that might as well be performed in a mirror. Harsh times? You can’t imagine. (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)

LOVE & SUICIDE Brooding depressive Tomas (Kamar de los Reyes) has come to Havana for two important reasons: to get blind drunk and to kill himself. Meeting Nina (Daisy McCrackin), a singer on vacation from Los Angeles, Tomas persuades her to accompany him on his road to oblivion, falling in love in the process. If that setup sounds like Leaving Las Vegas with a mambo rhythm, you’re way ahead of director and co-writer Lisa France’s picturesque but ultimately pointless romantic drama. Billed as the first American film to be made in Cuba during Fidel Castro’s reign, Love & Suicide lingers over the country’s architectural and natural beauty, emphasizing Havana’s poverty amid the post-card-worthy landscapes. But neither the film’s visual richness nor its mediocre attempts at social commentary can offset a mundane love story between two under-drawn characters. (For a guy supposedly at the end of his rope, Tomas becomes miraculously well-adjusted once he meets Nina, while her main personality trait is her ability to follow him around.) Their unexpected courtship in a foreign land might unconsciously mirror the more wistful, dreamlike spirit of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, but Love & Suicide doesn’t have those films’ philosophical underpinnings or reams of terrific dialogue. France tries to position Tomas’ brief fling as symbolic of his larger quest to reconcile with his Cuban heritage, but the lovebirds’ lackluster chatter quickly reduces the movie to nothing less than the longest episode of Blind Date ever. (Regency Fairfax) (Tim Grierson)

MAPLE PALM Like a lot of recent queer-themed cinema that aspires to be politically charged, Maple Palm takes a hot-button issue (here, it’s homophobic U.S. immigration policies) and reduces it to dry sloganeering and shameless emotional manipulation of the audience. Lesbian couple Nicole (a white Canadian in the country illegally) and Amy (a Latina U.S. citizen who has MS and a host of other health issues) have been living furtively for 15 years, trying desperately to avoid detection by the U.S. government. When a boorish federal agent violently crashes their makeshift idyll, the stage is set for a lot of talky (and often shrilly acted) set pieces in which dialogue seems lifted straight from debate-team note cards. Nothing in the film feels truly human, and much is laughable; the soundtrack veers from a mixture of Wave fare to guitar-dyke rock, with the federal agent’s first onscreen appearance announced by generically menacing guitar licks. The romantic interplay between the women comes off like an earnest clip from dated ’70s fare. Worse, crucial plot points hinge on stupid actions made by the two women, with writer-director Ralph Torjan sacrificing common sense about character to the need to pad the story and film.(Grande 4-Plex) (Ernest Hardy)

MASAI: THE RAIN WARRIORS A mythic quest ought to be more than pretty. It ought to stir ancient memories. Pascal Plisson’s tale of young Masai warriors journeying to shear the lion-god and thereby bring rain to their parched tribe, though, drifts along like summer vacation. As our warriors encounter the Kenyan equivalents of Cyclopes and Sirens, the languid pace and the lulling voice-over (French subtitled in English) make for a nice bedtime story rather than a window on primal struggles. And the youths — sleeping in heaps, war-painting one another and brandishing spears — draw out the homoeroticism of their Achilles and Patroclus models but miss the pride and violence. (The animals Plisson is used to filming provide their own dramas.) Authentic moments of gut-deep tribal chant and dance alternate with flute-synth decorations and gushy Western travelogue music, further confusing the film’s thrust. Meanwhile, thanks to cinematographer Manuel Teran’s sensual lens, we goggle drowsily at the golden grasses and pastel skies. Sweet, yes. Compelling, no. (Grande 4-Plex) (Greg Burk)

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3-D As anyone who has perused the bargain bin at a DVD store lately may have noticed, George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead has fallen into the public domain, making it fair game for re-release, re-edit and remake by anyone who chooses to do so. One particularly hideous DVD edition featured newly shot footage integrated into the original film. So it’s worth pointing out that this 3-D feature is not a technical upgrade of the Romero movie (like that newly enhanced Nightmare Before Christmas that just came out), but a full-on remake with the same character names and basic premise. Director Jeff Broadstreet (Dr. Rage) and screenwriter Robert Valding aren’t exactly out to scare us, making half the characters into potheads and casting Sid Haig as a crazy mortician responsible for the whole zombie thing. But they do deliver on the gore and nudity fronts, and you don’t often see such things in 3-D. The familiar title helps with the marketing, but hurts by inviting comparison with a classic; as a 2-D remake, it wouldn’t pass muster. (Tom Savini’s 1990 redo is far more respectable.) As an original film with a different title (Stoned Dead, perhaps?), Night would entertain on cable or video. As a 3-D zombie flick on the big screen, it offers something new and fun: Zombies, breasts and ­copious joint-passing coming right out of the screen. That alone would be worth the price of admission, but there are also several clever bits — “coming 4 u barb” is now a text message on a cell phone. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson)

THE RETURN The Return gets this year’s award for most misleading poster, with its image of an empty-eyed, gray-skinned zombie/ghost that appears nowhere in the movie. You might, however, feel a little empty-eyed and zombie-like yourself after emerging from this languid story. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who wouldn’t know a good movie script if it staked her in the heart, plays an agricultural product rep who occasionally has hallucinations about a mysterious ponytailed man in bluejeans. As she travels to a small Texas town to try to figure out why, she sometimes hears noises, sees her eyes change color in the mirror, and runs into deserted barns. Also, an angry coworker surfaces periodically to try to rape her for no apparent reason. A halfway decent editor could easily chop this down to 30 minutes without losing any plot points, but it would still be a tedious slog. Sam Shepard makes an appearance as Gellar’s dad, and single-handedly shows up everyone else onscreen by displaying actual human characteristics. In fairness, the final plot revelation is so ludicrous you’ll probably never guess it. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson)

THE SANTA CLAUSE 3: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE It’s Santa Claus (Tim Allen) versus Jack Frost (Martin Short) . . . Who’s gonna win? Oh, like there’s any doubt. Santa vanquished a fascistic robot doppelgänger in Part 2 — is there really a chance that Martin Short in a blue wig will pose any threat whatsoever? Rather than cheer your favorite winter character, you’ll more likely search for an escape clause of your own, as this overstuffed three-quel milks the reindeer dry one last time. The humor in the first two Santa Clause movies derived primarily from the way Scott Calvin’s double life as Santa infringed upon the real world, but this film is set mostly at the North Pole, which has recently been more richly imagined in the likes of Elf and The Polar Express. Alan Arkin and Ann-Margret are mildly amusing as Scott/Santa’s in-laws, and Elizabeth Mitchell’s Mrs. Claus may draw in a few fans of her newfound fame on Lost, but this is all really a big waste. At least the outtakes at the end are actually funny. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson)

STRANGER THAN FICTION See film feature

UMRAO JAAN Usually I write off as Bolly-wussies even those close friends who whine that Hindi movies are too long for their jam-packed schedules. But at three and a half hours, J.P. Dutta’s lugubrious period melodrama Umrao Jaan defeated me. It feels endless. Unlike some trendier recent productions, Umrao Jaan is a true old-school Bollywood music drama: There are over a dozen songs that serve a dramatic purpose, all of them staged in the same watered-down pseudo-classical style. You would not go far wrong thinking of the movie as an Indo-Islamic Memoirs of a Geisha. Based on a celebrated Urdu novel published in 1905 (previously filmed in 1981 with the miraculous Rekha in the title role), it follows the titular young girl as she is abducted in mid-19th-century Lucknow and sold into servitude as a tawaif — an ultrarefined courtesan (played as an adult by international fashion plate Aishwaria Rai) trained in classical song and dance and the composition of Urdu poetry, her favors available only to the uppermost crust of Muslim nobility. The great, brooding love of Umrao’s life is the unimaginably wealthy Naweb Sultan (Abishek Bachchan), who allows her to experience a love that is freely given rather than bought — until he is disowned by his father and can no longer afford her company. Although the novel was supposedly based on the life of a famous actual tawaif, the story suspiciously has all the elements of pulp melodrama. But by the time we get to the tumultuous third act, in which the Mutiny of 1857 scatters the characters and Umrao enjoys a road trip with a paperback-cover-model bandit (Suniel Shetty), our patience has been exhausted. (Fallbrook 7; Naz 8; Laguna Hills 3) (David Chute)

UNKNOWN Five strangers (Jim Caviezel, Barry Pepper, Greg Kinnear, Jeremy Sisto and Joe Pantoliano) wake up in various stages of injury, locked inside a chemical warehouse without any memory of who they are and how they got there. We, the audience, have a hunch that it has something to do with a concurrent storyline in which two shady-looking types (Peter Stormare and Mark Boone Jr.) have made off with a sports bag full of cash in what appears to be a botched ransom deal. You can’t fault the cast on this one, but you can fault the way the big-name actors have been distributed. Nobody cares about the simple-minded chase of the two hoodlums, so every time we cut to them, the movie stops dead; Caviezel and company are not only more charismatic, but they also have the more compelling dilemma: Can all involved remember their roles before the mysterious masterminds on the other end of a clipped phone conversation show up at sundown? Director Simon Brand channels both Saw and Reservoir Dogs (good influences, both) to propel his main story forward, and even gets nicely twisty when the climax comes, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that the B-story was added in to pad the film’s running time. (Westside Pavilion) (Luke Y. Thompson)

VIVAH The only important thing missing from Sooraj Barjatya’s Vivah (Wedding) is a major cathartic dance number, like the ones that were so exhilarating is his all-time Bollywood classic Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (What Am I To You). In many ways, Vivah marks a return to form for the director after a couple of films that were overblown to the point of kitsch, but it also overcompensates by playing everything in minor key. As usual with Barjatya, there’s almost no plot in the conventional sense. A beautiful and devout small-town girl named Poonam (Amrita Rao) and a go-getting Delhi businessman’s son named Prem (Shahid Kapoor) meet for the first time and fall in love when they are brought together by their doting parents as arranged-marriage prospects. The film then follows along on a series of family outings and meals and games as the young lovers’ affection deepens in the months leading up their wedding. The central romantic storyline is only a vehicle for a lovingly detailed depiction of an idealized way of life. Everything in Vivah hinges on the obligations and rewards of living in a hierarchical “joint family” — obligations that are seen as liberating rather than confining. From the moment he gets engaged, Prem accepts total responsibility for Poonam’s well being, which in turn gives meaning to his life. (Calling this point of view old fashioned doesn’t begin to cover it: it’s so defiantly retrograde that it becomes a critique of narcissistic “modernity.”) But one of the secrets of Barjatya’s past success was his effortless mastery of Bollywood’s aesthetic of excess. A restrained and tasteful Barjatya movie — one that doesn’t uncork single up-tempo dance number — is only half alive. (Fallbrook 7; Naz 8; Laguna Hills 3) (David Chute)

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