CT FILM FEST REVIEW: “Americanizing Shelley”

Here is a reprint of News-Times staffer Carolyn Mueller’s review of “Americanizing Shelley,” which plays Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Palace. The CT Film Folks are rolling out a red carpet around 6:30 p.m. and will be honoring New Milford’s Christo Bakalov and Namrata Singh Gujral. See the CT Film Fest Web site for more info.

‘Americanizing Shelley’ a family-friendly comedy

By Carolyn Mueller | STAFF WRITER

If you enjoy romantic comedies, be sure you catch “Americanizing Shelley” during the Connecticut Film Festival.

Set for a 7 p.m. screening Saturday at the Palace Theater, “Americanizing Shelly” has an interesting twist to it. Who would imagine a Bollywood-meets-Nashville-by-way-of-L.A. story line?

Apparently, Namrata Singh Gujral would. She wrote the script and stars in the film as Shalini Singh, a village girl from India who travels to “Am’rica” to track down her betrothed, Neil.

The groom-to-be, who moved to the United States years ago, has not been responding to letters from Shalini’s family, bringing embarrassment to them over an arranged marriage that seems to have gone off the rails before it’s begun.

But Shalini is not merely a village girl; she has a “master’s degree in English and cooking,” meant to prepare her to be a good wife and mother.

Neil’s reasons for disregarding his correspondence become apparent soon enough. He’s now a Hollywood agent, representing celebrities-in-the-making and taking advantage of women who want to be his clients. The Indian values of his childhood have been replaced with a harsh appreciation of money over people.

As he tells Shalini in her new American identity as Shelley, once you achieve a certain level of success, you can no longer be nice; you must ditch people who can’t be of use to you in making money.

A couple of other characters, known in the film as Rob and Blaine, have a tremendous impact on Shalini’s American experience. Rob and Blaine graduate from a university in the South and head west to L.A. ­– one to pursue the girl of his dreams and one to seek a career in the military. Helping Shalini morph into Shelley becomes a challenge for them both, and adds to the cultural mix.This movie can work for you in one of two ways. You can plunk down in front of the screen and coast through it, catching some chuckles along the way. Or you can sit down and really pay attention, which will result in more laughs. (Hint: Listen to the lyrics of the background music and keep an ear out for the wisdom of disc jockey Bend Over.)

The comedy is a mix of typical person-in-disguise farce, cultural confusion and neatly delivered dialogue. The clash of values, the lengths people go to for those they care about, and which funny references you catch in the film will give you plenty to discuss when the final credits roll.

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