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Click for full sized poster

East is East

Rated [R], 96 minutes
Starring Om Puri and Linda Bassett
Screenplay by Ayub Khan-Din, based on his play
Directed by Damien O'Donnell
website: www.miramax.com

IN SHORT: And now, an awards laden flick from across the Pond

"Tradition" may have been a rousing song from Fiddler on the Roof, but the concept of maintaining old country ways after immigrating to the New World is universal. It's also at the root of East Is East, a very funny tale of cultures clashing and a father's doomed effort to force his kidlets to adhere to the old ways. It's a bigger problem than it reads, because Papa hasn't toed the line perfectly.

As if in rigid opposition to My Son The Fanatic the last Om Puri starrer in which he played a tried and true assimilationist, in East is East, Puri's character is determined to maintain "traditional" Pakistani culture and traditions in his Manchester, England based family. But for George Khan (Puri), tradition stopped when he changed his name and abandoned his still in Pakistan wife. George marries the English native Ella (Linda Bassett) and bows to her wish to remain in her Catholic neighborhood. Twenty five years down the line, while his seven kidlets have been raised in the Muslim faith, they take delight in participating in the pageantry of Catholic holiday street parades. East is East gets off to a delightful start as the mom and kidlets, carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary in such a parade, are tipped that dad has come home early from Mosque and is spectating a couple of blocks up the road. Think Keystone Kops as they dash through back alleyways to avoid George's fearsome wrath.

And George's wrath is fearsome as is his overwhelming need for control over every aspect of his family's life. Central to the story is the Paki tradition of arranged marriages, which is where we start this flick. Eldest son Nazir (Ian Aspinall) is the first to the altar, dressed in traditional and very colorful gear. But, for reasons that will lead to a good chuckle in the third act, Nazir bolts for the door and leaves his attractive bride to be at the altar. George declares that his son is "dead" and that no one in the family will have contact with the boy. Completely ignorant to the fact that this particular tradition is abhorrently retro to the raised as English kidlets, George begins work fixing up sons 2 and 3, Tariq (Jimi Mistry) and Abdul (Raji James). Outside of dad's earshot, these boys call themselves Tony and Arthur, and are having quite a nice time entertaining the local girls and hitting the discos, once mom and dad are asleep. Abdul is a fairly observant Muslim, Tariq is the exotic boy toy beloved by the girls in the clubs. When they meet their matches, oh, the horror.

Culture clash movies, if they're well written, are usually fun to watch because you can step way back as an outside observer. While most of the situations in this film are terrifically funny, George is a brute, with all that implies. At his core is a worn down terrified man who, for all his attempts to adhere to tradition, is as hypocritical as he sees his kidlets. His balance is Ella, and the reasons she puts up with George are what you'll be discussing afterwards. Love, I guess, is a strange and wondrous thing.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to East is East, he would have paid...

$6.50

Good performances by both Puri and Basset got them nominations for the Brit equivalent of Oscar and the film has taken noms as Best Picture and Best British Film. Those who frequent the arthouses will flock to this flick. Those beyond teenflicks who want something a little more substantial should head there as well.

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