Basmati Blues is in theaters and On Demand February 9th.
By I. Simon
Every once in a while, there is a film that ends up getting shelved for many years, until someone involved decides to finally release it. When this happens, it generally means that said film is not good. The latest example of this is Danny Baron’s directorial debut Basmati Blues, which stars Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson (Room, Kong: Skull Island, future Captain Marvel), Donald Sutherland (MASH, The Hunger Games franchise), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect), and Scott Bakula (Star Trek: Enterprise). The film follows a young scientist (Larson) who is sent to India to produce genetically modified rice, but later learns that the rice is hurting Indians instead of helping them. Basmati Blues was a film shot back in 2013 (before Larson’s breakthrough in Short Term 12 had released in theaters), and considering the awful premise and the overall quality of the film, it is unsurprising that it was hidden for this long.
The closest thing to good about Basmati Blues is Brie Larson’s performance. In terms of her acting, it’s very far from awful, but it’s not quite great either. Considering the circumstances and material that Larson had to work with, she could have done a lot worse. As for Larson’s singing, that was actually very good. Larson’s singing was good enough to elevate awful lyrics that she was working with to something that did not really irritate me while watching this film. Overall, Larson is decent enough here, and she does carry the film. That’s as far as I can go in terms of positives.
As for the other performances, they are really bad. Some are even flat out cringeworthy. Utkarsh Ambudkar is very flat, and chemistry between him and Larson is nonexistent. Scott Bakula is just dreadful in this film. I could not buy him as Larson’s onscreen father one bit. Then we have Donald Sutherland, who is not just atrocious, but incredibly corny. He just completely phones it in, and watching felt like a chore.
The writing and direction in this film are, to put it quite frankly, horrid. There’s no unique style or vision to be found here, and it feels like a 1980s made for TV movie. The shots look very ugly (which is surprising because this is a very colorful film in terms of costumes and setting), the narrative is poorly constructed and predictable, the characters are one-note, the film is loaded with cliches, the dialogue is abysmal, and the romance between Brie Larson and Utkarsh Ambudkar might be one of the most poorly contrived romances I have ever seen in a rom-com.
Speaking of the script, this film has been getting controversy ever since the trailer had dropped for utilizing the white savior trope. While it is still very much there, it is not quite as strong as the trailer may have presented. Still, the film still is full of those racist stereotypes that were presented in the trailers. Maybe the film was trying to go for a “self-aware” vibe, but it completely failed.
This film completely fails on a technical level too. The cinematography is so bland and ugly, the music is absolutely awful, the sound design is very bad, the costumes and set designs are poor, and the visual effects look like they were from the 1990s. (There’s a train sequence, and I was laughing at how fake it looked.) However, the worst technical element of Basmati Blues is the editing. I’m not kidding when I say that this film has worse editing than The Snowman. Some scenes are honestly strong contenders for the most ridiculously edited scenes I have ever seen in cinema. Then again, they used the editor of The Waterboy (Tom Lewis), so I cannot say that I am too surprised.
I can’t say I am speechless by how atrocious Basmati Blues was, because I am not surprised at all. That said, it is a shame that an actress as talented as Brie Larson got stuck in this mess. I assume that she was in a huge debt to Danny Baron, or badly needed a paycheck. Overall, this film did not make me angry, nor did it make me laugh a lot at how bad it was. When I was watching Basmati Blues, I just was thinking “whatever.” It’s not the worst film I have ever seen. It’s a trash film for sure, and without a doubt going to end up being one of the worst films of 2018, but Basmati Blues is not the worst thing ever to come to cinema. That said…
I give Basmati Blues a D-.