The 2010 Tribeca Film Festival has begun in New York City. New this year is a selection of films available to watch the same day on VOD.
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: The Infidel. (available on demand simultaneously with screenings at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.)
You may have heard of The Infidel after it made waves in the UK because of its “culturally sensitive” subject matter. Have no fear, this is no heavy drama filled with loaded meaning. It’s a big, broad, bawdy comedy about a Muslim minicab driver living a typical life in East London who discovers after the death of his mother that he was adopted and was in fact born Jewish.
Yes Mahmud Nasir was first “Solly Shimshillewitz.” (all we need is a soul switch and I smell a Razzie award) This new information impacts his state of mind, his marriage and his son’s marriage-to-be as the fiancee’s family contains a radical Muslim cleric from Pakistan who will make the final judgement – meaning Mahmud is tasked with being the best Muslim he can be right when he discovers he might have to learn to be a Jew.
The film stars Omid Djalili, a popular British comic of Iranian descent who has been in everything from Gladiator to the NBC sitcom Whoopi. Supporting cast includes Richard Schiff (The West Wing) as a Jewish-American cab driver and flawed mentor along with the very attractive Archie Panjabi (Bend it Like Beckham) as Mahmud’s loving but increasingly suspicious wife. Matt Lucas, the genius chameleon from Little Britain also appears (all too briefly) as a hairless Rabbi.
The supporting cast performs well - though completely to type - so The Infidel falls on the shoulders of Djalili who carries it from beginning to end with his sympathetic, likeable presence and expressive charisma.
The script by David Baddiel contains sufficient fun (more or less depending on your sense of humor and attachment to the subject matter), and tries hard to push the envelope mainly with swears, sexual innuendo and normally line-crossing jokes at the expense of Muslim and Jewish cultural identity and stereotypes. They get away with it mainly because it seems to be coming from the horse’s mouth. What they don’t get away with is a predictable plot so full of contrivances that one resigns one’s self to an inevitable cookie-cutter act structure. The ending is so manufactured, it almost upends the goodwill won by Djalili’s film-long efforts. Almost.
The Infidel is a tactless, evenly-lit romp which makes it more or less appealing to a semi-wide audience in the same way that other workmanlike but “ethnocentric” or “offbeat” British comedies such as East is East, Kinky Boots and Bend It Like Beckham did (though the F-bombs, boob jokes and burning of a yarmulke with the Star of David on it could make watching the film next to grandma slightly uncomfortable.) The direction by Josh Appignanesi, like the material he’s working with, lacks a truly edgy style, but, like its lead character, it strives for moderation in lieu of extremism in its many ugly forms (which can be effective).
Ultimately, this is a film for the every man, and while only occasionally amusing for this man, honestly, I can imagine great guffaws from audiences who really want to laugh at this subject matter. With tensions the way they are, I say laugh it up, it’s better than the alternative.
Get meshugge at Tribeca and on demand now!