MacLachlan Can't Carry 'Touch of Pink'
Friday, August 13, 2004
KYLE MACLACHLAN has a chin that could inspire sonnets. It's boldly bulbous, proudly prominent and, ever since he played Agent Dale Cooper in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," it's been crying out for a deeper cleft.
It finally gets one in "Touch of Pink," a clumsy comedy in which MacLachlan stars as the spirit of Cary Grant, the Hollywood icon with perhaps the most famously indented chin in human history.
Unfortunately, MacLachlan's strong jaw line and his valiant attempt to act so very Cary aren't enough to save this film from stumbling over the many cliches in its part-screwball, part-melodrama plotline. An affair to remember this isn't.
Jimi Mistry plays protagonist Alim, a Londoner of South Asian descent living happily in a stylish flat with his male lover, Giles (Kristen Holden-Reid), and his invisible sidekick, Cary Grant. A spectral surrogate for Alim's late father, Cary appears often -- always dressed splendidly in silk robes, tailored tuxes and spiffy ascots -- to offer guidance, provide comfort and affectionately refer to Alim as his "little samosa."
Only Alim -- who is obsessed with the grandeur of classic Hollywood cinema -- can see Cary, his own private metaphor for how elegantly right life could be. (It's a little eyebrow-raising that Grant, who was rumored in real life to have taken male lovers of his own, happens to be the figure dispensing advice to a young gay man. But that's a subject for another day and another film student's thesis.) As it happens, Alim has bigger problems than seeing ghosts. His mother, Nuru (Suleka Mathew), a traditional Ismaili Muslim who watches with envy as sister Dolly prepares for her son Khaled's upcoming wedding, soon arrives in London and demands to know when Alim will get married. Of course, Nuru doesn't know her son is gay, so Alim must go to great lengths, at the expense of his relationship with Giles, to hide his true identity. Cue the "Three's Company"-style antics.
Most of the comedy, which relies primarily on misunderstandings and ethnic stereotypes, falls woefully flat. As for the more serious underlying messages -- about embracing diversity, accepting who you are and realizing that real life will never equal "The Philadelphia Story" -- writer-director Ian Iqbal Rashid beats them so blatantly into our heads that they barely resonate. What "Touch of Pink" does best is borrow from other films. It takes a little story line from Ang Lee's "The Wedding Banquet," a sense of ethnic color from "Monsoon Wedding," snatches of dialogue from "Charade" and clips from a host of other Grant favorites, including "Suspicion" and "Gunga Din." These moments may be intended as homage, but they succeed only in adding more incongruous elements to what's already a muddled mess.
And that brings us back to MacLachlan. As Grant, he gets all the surface details right -- the self-assured posture, the staccato speech pattern and the perfectly slicked hair all smack unmistakably of the matinee idol. Yet MacLachlan never seems to fully inhabit the role. Of course, he's not playing Grant so much as Alim's mental image of the man. Still, it's vital that the character have a palpable heartbeat. Though MacLachlan's portrayal is occasionally entertaining, ultimately his Cary comes across as exactly what he is: lifeless.
But his chin? That looks downright fantastic.