Film review: Shades of Ray (2008), written and directed by Jaffar Mahmood
tl;dr: Bit slow at times, but cute – and real full of people who aren’t Pakistani in the slightest.
Ray Rehman (Zachary Levi) isn’t just an actor – he’s also half Pakistani and half white American, and he’s confused. In fact, he’s always been confused about his identity and maybe also a little bit ashamed of being different to most other people. He’s just asked his girlfriend Noel (Bonnie Somerville) to marry him and she doesn’t immediately say yes. She needs time to think about it.
Meanwhile, Ray’s best friend from school, Sal (Fran Kranz), pines over a girl he’s been pining over since those very same school days, and one day Ray’s dad Javaid (Brian George) shows up on Ray’s doorstep because wife Janet (Kathy Baker) kicked him out.
Javaid thinks his son should find a nice Pakistani girl and settle down – none of that white girl business. Sooo aided and abetted by Mr and Mrs Khaliq (Gerry Bednob and Cristine Rose), he sets up Ray with Sana Khaliq (Sarah Shahi) – a nice half-Pakistani/half-white girl.
And if anything, it makes Ray even more confused.
Perhaps it’s my “it’s over a decade later” brain, but the film felt really awkward to me. (Not as awkward as the audition scenes, though, because yikes they’re really painful.) Not because it dragged on in places, but because of the whole discussion in more recent years about whitewashing, and wouldn’t it be good to have actors who are genuinely of a certain ethnicity instead of having a white actor pretending to be of a different ethnicity than they actually are?
Brian George is Israeli of Iraqui-Indian heritage (he’s arguably the closest to Pakistani out of the whole cast), Gerry Bednob is a Canadian born in Trinidad, Sarah Shahi is of Iranian-Spanish descent, and Zachary Levi with his mixed European heritage is about as white as they come.
It’s just … it makes for a pretty awkward watch these days, if you happen to care about that sort of thing. Which I do. On the other hand, they aren’t all exactly super white so it’s not necessarily whitewashing per se, but it’s still … there were no actors with Pakistani or Indian heritage available? (If there really wasn’t, then there should be!)
So … yeah. If we disregard the fact that basically none of them appear to even be remotely Asian it’s a cute film, Zachary Levi is adorable as always, and I’m so happy to finally have found an actor whose back catalogue I actually want to see for the films themselves and not only because an actor I like happen to be in it. This is a romantic comedy! And what’s even better is that this isn’t the only one. He’s been in several romcoms – including, of course, Disney’s Tangled! #win
So while the film in itself was a bit so-so, at least it was sort of enjoyable as a romantic dramedy.
3 out of 5 pilot uniforms.