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Shades of Ray (2008)

PG-13 85 minutes

Directed by Jaffar Mahmood
Written by Jaffar Mahmood

 · Zachary Levi
 · Bonnie Somerville
 · Sarah Shahi
 · Fran Kranz
 · Brian George
 · Kathy Baker

Review by Reel American Hero (Mike Keskeys)

 A long time ago I wanted nothing more than to become a filmmaker, life had other plans for me it seems.  However I'm still a huge film fanatic, and as such I feel almost compelled to seek out new films from new talent , and I try to pick out who's going to be the next thing in Hollywood.   And after watching Shades of Ray, Jaffar Mahmood could be one of those new talents. 




Zachary Levi (Chuck) plays Ray Rehman, a half white, half Pakistani struggling actor/bartender working and living in L.A. with his childhood friend Sal (Fran Kranz- Dollhouse).  He has just proposed to his long time girlfriend Noel (Bonie Somerville-The Ugly Truth), who says she has to think about whether or not she'll say yes or not.  While he's waiting for that, hisPakistani  father (played by Brian George-Bubble Boy) shows up on his door, needing a place to stay after getting into a fight with Ray's mother (played by Kathy Baker-13 Going On 30). 

 Ray's father doesn't approve of his relationship with  Noel, and tries to set him up with a family friend's daughter, Sana (played by Sarah Shahi of Tv's Life.)   After spending some time with her Ray starts to have feelings for her, and now has to decide who he really wants to be with.


 Jaffar Mahmood's writing/directing style seemed to evoke a lot of fellow New Jersey native Zach Braff, and his film Garden State, and this is a pretty good first film.  I'd like it a bit more, but there are so many moments and characters that seem to be in this movie just because it's that kind of movie.  From a misunderstanding between a parent, to the wacky best friend requite with wacky hair to show how zany he is.  Hell right down to the getting caught moment near the end of the movie, it feels really familiar and like we've seen this before, despite the originality of the story being about a half Pakistani/half white guy.   


The cinematography by Bob Finley III,  is great, but it almost feels at times to be too arty for it's own good, as though the movie's trying too hard to establish it's indie cred.  The same with the score by the Newton Brothers, I love independant cinema, but I hate when movies try too hard to be independant with that certain style.   It's a phenomena I call 'the Zooey Deschanel thing', it's when a film, or person is going out of their way to establish their independant nature.  And you want to smack the person, or person in charge in the back of  the head and say we get it already, enough.  Please.  

 Jaffar Mahmood's script has some glaring flaws to it as well, namely we don't really get any time with Noel other than the opening scene and another scene or two closer to the end of the movie, so we don't really know her as well as we get to know Sana, Ray's other love interest.  So the viewer feels more inclined to like Sana, just because we get to know and spend time with this character, while the other character exists just to provide a conflict, becoming 'the bad guy' in the situation while not really doing anything to deserve that moniker.  


 Also, during the audition scenes to establish Ray as an actor, normally white looking Zachary Levi is darker for no reason.  I don't know if they put some body tan stuff on him, or if it was a digital effect, but he looked a lot darker in those scenes then the rest of the movie.  I know the character is supposed to be half Pakistani, but I know mixed race people, and they don't get darker and lighter on a day to day basis.   It's as though 95% of the movie, Levi looks like your average white guy, but then he goes to audition and turns into the Incredible Ethnic Hulk.  I'm not sure where they were going with this at all, stick with whatever color you want him to be, don't darken him up just to show the inherent racism of the Hollywood casting directors.  









    Flaws aside, the movie did have a lot of heart going into it.  Zachary Levi is as likeable as ever in this film and I hope we see more stuff from him, and more episodes of Chuck, as the years go on.  Sarah Sahi really blew me away here, she was great and it was a different turn from her last major role on the NBC show, Life.    Speaking of NBC shows it seemed as though they were passing the script among the offices at the network, because we also get an appearance from Heroes' Christine Rose as Sana's mother.  Was weird to see her smiling in this film after being so dour on the show.   




  It's not a perfect movie, but I've seen much worse film debuts, and it's got a winning cast to it.  If you're a fan of Chuck I'd reccomend checking the movie out to see Levi's other work, as he does a good job in this movie.   There are a lot worse movies out there to spend your time and money on.  I'm sure that as Mahmood grows as a filmmaker his talent will as well.  Till next time be sure to keep it Reel.

919 Words Published: 8 August 2009

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