The Reluctant Fundamentalist was getting a lot of buzz at the Tribeca Film Festival, so I took it upon myself to go see what the hype was about. It’s the story of a Pakistani man named Changez (played by Riz Ahmed) who is ‘chasing corporate success on Wall Street [when] he finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family’s homeland.’ He’s a smart, driven, educated young man coming up in the world, really finding his place, and all of a sudden 9/11 happens, and everything turns upside down.
Sounds pretty good, right? Meaty, heady, topical. The story is good but a tiny bit clunky, which I’ve kind of noticed as a theme lately from some of the independent films I’ve been seeing. The main story is book-ended by a hostage situation that happens in the present day, and I didn’t think the order that things were eventually placed in was quite as strong as it could have been. The audience could figure it out, but it definitely contributed to some sloppiness, plot-wise, as the story went on. There’s one moment late in the movie where Liev Schreiber does something that no one in his position would do unless they were very bad at their job, which he wasn’t set up to be. I won’t say what it is, but it has to do with a cellphone, and it was pretty distracting to me.
But luckily, the movie it was still really enjoyable to watch, because it was very well acted — particularly by Riz, who’s very talented and who I hadn’t seen before, Liev, and actually Keifer Sutherland and his hipster glasses, too. I was pleasantly surprised…by everyone except Kate Hudson.
Kate played Changez’s girlfriend, Erica, and she was kind of distractingly out-of-place. I don’t know if it’s because the role wasn’t written very strongly, but she really failed to gain my sympathy, as a character. Given, she’s supposed to go through some stuff that later on make her unsympathetic, but she was never likable enough for me to be surprised at her change in direction. It’s weird, because I remember her being a strong dramatic actor in Almost Famous, but maybe all the rom-coms she’s done in between have dulled her edge, because I really wasn’t digging her in this role. Or maybe all of her power comes from her blond hair, which was obscured in this role by a dark wig. There are many options for why she wasn’t my favorite — you can pick your own. She just never seemed that interested in Changez, which is crazy because he was super smart and driven and attractive…before he grew his pube beard, anyway.
But the movie itself I would recommend, I think. Especially in light of all the racial profiling by the media that went on during the Boston Marathon bombing coverage last week, it’s interesting to watch a national tragedy from the viewpoint of a traditional outsider. Obviously Changez had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11th, but the suspicion and violence with which he was treated, and the way the events completely changed his daily life, are extremely important to note. His privacy was brutally invaded just because of the color of his skin, and it was jarring for me to realize exactly to what extent that must have happened to ordinary citizens who happen to look a certain way.