- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

Until now, my favorite Cary Grant line had been “Mr. Kaplan has dandruff,” from the great “North by Northwest.” I think I have a new one: “It keeps the evil fresh.”

The movie is “Touch of Pink”; the context is plastic covers on couches; and the deliverer is actually Kyle MacLachlan, who plays the “spirit” of Mr. Grant — the imaginary arbiter of Anglo good taste and monkey on the back of Alim, a homosexual South Asian Londoner steaming toward a revelation vis-a-vis his traditionalist Muslim mother.

With Mr. MacLachan doing a spot-on, high-camp impression of Mr. Grant and dressed variously in ascots and paisley bathrobes, “Pink” has the nostalgic tone of last year’s “Die, Mommie, Die,” which starred Charles Busch in drag as a movie chanteuse from the Hollywood studio era.

“Pink,” the feature debut of writer-director Ian Iqbal Rashid, has that same self-referential fondness for old movies — the title is a twist on the Cary Grant/Doris Day movie “That Touch of Mink” — and it’s shot through the same prism of male homosexual refinement and glamour worship.

Seeing Mr. Busch poured into dresses and batting his eyelash extensions was fine for a running joke, but, unlike “Mommie,” “Pink” has a heart at its heart, so to speak.

Mr. Rashid wants to send the viewer home not with cross-dressers on the brain; rather, he wants to leave the impression of homosexual normalcy and romantic familiarity.

Alim (Jimi Mistry) and Giles (Kristen Holden-Reid) are a homosexual couple living in a London flat that overlooks the Thames. Alim works as a still photographer on movie sets and just landed a job on a big-budget film; Giles is an economist for the United Nations.

Life is good and calm for the couple — Giles’ sister (Liisa Repo-Martell) sometimes plays third wheel — but it’s about to get more complicated for Alim: His mother, Nuru (Suleka Mathew), is en route from Toronto to convince him to come home for a cousin’s wedding, a several-day affair in Indian culture.

She doesn’t know Alim is homosexual, and so the guys remove all traces of their relationship from the apartment. (“Cary Grant” helps, too, judging Alim’s book collection one by one — “gay,” “gay,” “gay.”)

Miss Mathew is a pistol. She tears through the second act of the movie with one-liners about British imperialism and wicked asides about the South Asian class system. She’s also ruthless in her dominion over Alim’s life, and if Mr. Mistry were a better actor, the scenes with the two of them wouldn’t have been so flat.

When the more lively Giles takes Nuru for a happy-go-lucky day date, “Pink” pretty much reaches its peak. From there, Nuru begins to soften — wouldn’t family life be so much easier if we had 90 minutes to resolve conflicts? — and the movie becomes a rather lame, self-congratulatory caricature of the supposed hypocrisy of the “straight” world.

I won’t give anything away, but Mr. Rashid implies that if society weren’t so keen on keeping up a facade of propriety, there’d be a lot more openly homosexual folks in the world.

Maybe, maybe not.

I stopped caring about the sociopolitical stuff at the sight of Mr. MacLachlan in his “Gunga Din” jungle warrior outfit.

**

TITLE: “Touch of Pink”

RATING: R (Strong sexual content; brief profanity)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid. Produced by Jennifer Kawaja, Martin Pope and Julia Sereny. Cinematography by David A. Makin. Score by Andrew Lockington.

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes.

WEB SITE: https://www.sonyclassics.com/touchofpink

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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