Nina's Heavenly Delights

2007, Movie, PG-13, 94 mins

Review

NINA'S HEAVENLY DELIGHTS
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Nairobi-born, U.K.-raised writer-producer-director Pratibha Parmar's frothy lesbian romance unfolds within the confines of Glasgow's bustling Indian community.

As a child, Nina Shah (Shelley Conn) was the apple of her father Mohan's (Raad Rawi) eye. He delighted in sharing the art of cooking, and she spent many happy hours with him at the family's restaurant, the New Taj. But as an adult, Nina fled to London to escape the expectations of her family and neighbors, particularly the expectation that she would marry Sanjay Khanna (Raji James), whose family owns the rival Jewel in the Crown Restaurant: Nina decamped on what was to have been her wedding day. She returns three years later for her father's funeral to find that the Taj is up for sale — her father used it as gambling collateral — and that Sanjay's father (Art Malik) hopes to buy it. Nina convinces her mother (Veena Sood) to put off selling the Taj long enough to enter it in a fiercely competitive local curry cook-off, saying that the restaurant will fetch a better price as a three-time award-winner. But the real reason is that she wants to honor her father's memory. As Nina begins formulating the perfect menu with which to wow the judges, she uncovers all manner of neighborhood secrets, all of which pale next to her realization that she's fallen in love with childhood friend Lisa Mackinlay (Laura Fraser), who happens to be dating Nina's brother, Kary (Atta Yaqub). Everything comes to a head on the set of Kohma-TV, the local station that sponsors the cooking competition and is closely watched by just about everyone Nina knows.

A bubbly little romantic comedy that has more in common with KISSING JESSICA STEIN (2001) than grittier tales of being gay within a tight-knit ethnic community, Parmar's film is light and sweet, comfort food dressed up with a dash of exotic spice. For all the escalating complications, there's no crisis that can't be fixed by a sit-down over tea. Life is generally messier and more painful, and that's why formulaic movies exist: to recast emotional ordeals as silly spots of bother that go down as easily as that comforting cup of tea. NINA never pretends to be anything else. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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