One of the doughtiest of British film genres is the ‘eccentric Brit’ comedy-drama. From The Full Monty to Kinky Boots, UK filmmakers have long been drawn to tales featuring starchy, conservative Britons trapped in uncomfortable or awkward situations that force them to, well, become a little less starchy and conservative.
Dough (opening at Landmark Theatres Albany Twin Cinema on Friday, April 29) is the latest example of the style. Directed by television veteran John Goldschmidt, the film stars Jonathan Pryce as Nat Dayan, an orthodox Jewish baker clinging to an ailing family business in London’s rapidly gentrifying East End.
The awkward situation comes in the form of Sudanese immigrant Ayyash (Jerome Holder). A Muslim refugee from Darfur, young Ayyash is employed by big time pot dealer Victor (Ian Hart) to sell wacky tobacky – but only if he has a ‘cover job’ to serve as a front.
Conveniently, Nat’s current assistant has just given notice, and young Ayyash (encouraged by his loving but clueless mother) seems to be the right man for the job. When Ayyash introduces a special ingredient into Nat’s staid bagels and cakes – dope meet dough — sales go through the roof, helping stave off the threat posed by a neighboring convenience shop.
Despite a plot filled (perhaps appropriately) with holes, Dough is a pleasant little picture with a multicultural twist. While it won’t blow your mind, it will provide you a pleasant 90 minutes of patently silly diversion. And who knows — it might even give you a fit of the giggles.
I had high hopes for Pali Road (opening at AMC’s Metreon in San Francisco on Friday, April 29; no East Bay playdates are currently scheduled), which has been attracting attention on the festival circuit — most notably at this year’s CAAMFest and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The film’s reputation and intriguing premise piqued my interest, but I’m sorry to report there’s not much meat to flesh out its rather skimpy bones.
Taiwanese-born actress Michelle Chen headlines as Lily Zhang, a Chinese doctor living and working in Hawaii. Supervisor Mitch Kayne (Sung Kang, best known for a recurring role in those Fast and Furious films I’ve so assiduously avoided) is a failed suitor and hasn’t quite recovered from Lily’s stated preference for schoolteacher Neil.
Alas, Lily has second thoughts about actually marrying Neil, and a post-proposal argument ends in a car wreck and loss of consciousness. When she awakens, Lily discovers that Neil apparently never existed: she’s now married to Mitch and has even had a son with him. Is she being gas-lighted by Dr. Kayne, or suffering from an extreme form of delayed amnesia?
While director Jonathan Lim is deft with the camera and has an eye for attractive setups, his storytelling leaves much to be desired. Pali Road’s characters are thinly drawn and uninteresting and its acting barely above soap opera level; some extremely egregious product placement doesn’t help matters. It ends up being a rather pallid thriller indeed.
Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.
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