Yesterday I treated myself to a double bill, because I had the day off work and it’s super hot so I wanted movie theater air conditioning. This was a kind of random pick based on showtimes and the trailer looking cute. I don’t exactly regret watching it, but I’m also not super happy I did.
This is a movie that was just lazy. The songs were lazy, the directing was lazy, the script was lazy. The only thing that wasn’t lazy was the central performance. And the costume designer for the central performance. Samantha was great, and her clothes were great, but besides that I kind of felt like I was wasting my money. No, more than that, being tricked out of my money by lazy people who didn’t care enough to investigate the possibilities of their premise.
This is one of those movies where I kept checking my watch, waiting for the twist that I was sure would be coming, and then it never did, it kept going in a completely predictable fashion. And eventually I was just checking my watch waiting for it to be over. Traditional family roles are upheld, so are traditional gender roles, and traditional age roles. Every time it comes close to crossing a line into saying something objectionable, it gets scared and runs back into the safety of how things have always been.
This is one of those movies where I wonder if someone somewhere had greater ambitions for it. Because there are these little moments that made me sit up and take notice, and then the narrative just brushes right past them. Open questions, loose ends, places the film could have explored and just chose not to. Instead, the same old familiar questions and answers are used again and again.
I was super bored, but everyone in the theater around me was laughing their heads off. Why? Part of it was language, certainly, it’s a Telugu movie so I didn’t even have my slight knowledge of Hindi to help me out, there were whole lines of dialogue I was missing entirely because the subtitles didn’t bother with them. But part of it was also laughing at the familiar situations and familiar issues “ha-ha, that is just like my grandmother.”
That’s where I felt the laziness most. You can get a cheap laugh by taking a familiar situation and showing it again and again until the audience laughs through recognition. But you can get a better laugh by taking a familiar situation and showing its absurdities, the problems with it, taking it a step further and giving your joke an actual punchline instead of just a set-up. That’s what this film lacked, the punchline. We have a series of situations, but there is no point to them, they all just bring us back where we started. Just like every joke is simply “ha-ha, here is a thing” and then it moves on.
For example, at one point our old-woman-in-a-young-woman’s-body confronts a woman she sees buying formula at a grocery store, asking her why she isn’t breastfeeding. There was a big laugh of recognition from the audience because old woman do that in Indian culture and it is surprisingly different but familiar to see a young woman do it in the way an old woman would. And then I kept waiting for the second half, for the mother to give a snappy retort to our heroine and show how the new generation has something to say as well, they just choose not to say it to an older person. Or for her to be taken by store security because it is strange when a young woman does this and that makes us realize that it is also strange when an old woman does it. Or for a third person to show up, maybe another old woman, and lecture both of them on reasons that a mother may need to supplement with formula. But none of that happens. It is just funny because it is familiar but not. There is no interrogation of why people do this, of if it is good or bad, of if there is a problem here that needs to change.
I suppose you could make a movie that is set entirely within familiar worlds and still make it entertaining. That’s what songs are for, and romantic chemistry, and great dialogue, and so on and so forth. It keeps us going even when we have seen this same story over and over before. But in this case, nothing. The songs are pretty dull and unmemorable (especially bad since it is supposed to be a movie with a music plot in it), the characters never seem to have much chemistry, I suppose the dialogue (based on how the people around me were laughing) is good but that might be the only thing. If you don’t speak Telugu, don’t bother.