The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mira Nair’s story of an Americanized Pakistani driven back home by the xenophobia of post-9/11 US starts promisingly, thanks to a quietly powerful performance by leading man Riz Ahmed (and able support from Liev Schreiber and Keifer Sutherland, both revisiting familiar types, but well). But it slowly falls apart, for few discernable reasons — it’s competent but lifeless, its rote storytelling and narrative twists done no favors by an arbitrary romance (with an unfortunately cast Kate Hudson) that’s a total washout. Good scenes here and there, but ultimately something of a mess.
Farah Goes Bang
An Iranian post-grad tries to lose her virginity during — incongruously enough — a summer on the 2004 John Kerry campaign trail in this mishmash of a coming-of-age sex comedy/drama. Director Meera Menon occasionally captures the admirable yet slightly irritating idealism of youth, but for the most part, the film is a mess; the narrative is aimless, the filmmaking undisciplined. It’s a half-baked effort, but star Nikohl Boosheri is a real find — she holds the screen, even when the script fails her. If she can find a better vehicle than this, she could do some serious damage.