Cary Grant is one of the main characters in Ian Iqbal Rashid’s debut feature, a would-be a sophisticated romantic comedy about Alim (Jimi Mistry), a young man who has difficulty revealing to his mother that he’s gay. (The very title, of course, is a play on that of a Grant movie, 1962’s “That Touch of Mink.”) Grant is Alim’s imaginary friend, a kind of sounding-board and source of advice drawn from his host’s loving recollection of old movies and his longings about what he wants his life to be. The figure is, of course, a theatrical device designed to bring the protagonist’s fears and desires alive in a charmingly nostalgic way. But for the film–and the device–to work, several things are required. One is that the script has to make you care about Alim. Another is that while the actor playing Grant needn’t look exactly like him, he does have to capture his debonair style and offhandedly elegant mien without apparent effort. And, of course, the situations and dialogue must have an easy wit and verve; the movie has to be light on its feet.
Unfortunately, none of these requirements are met by “Touch of Pink.” It’s a heavy, contrived bit of whimsy that doesn’t even match its fluffily amusing Ross Hunter models. Misty, who was spry and likable in “The Guru,” makes Alim, a Toronto-born fellow now living in London with his understanding, good-natured boyfriend Giles (Kristen Holden-Ried), a rather dour, inexpressive fellow who’s discomfited when his aggressive, controlling mother Nuru (Suleka Mathew) comes for a visit. Alim’s cousin Khaled (Raoul Bhaneja) is getting married–an occasion, of course, for the inclusion of lots of the wedding material that seems obligatory in any film involving Indian characters–and Nuru, who’s constantly competitive with her sister Dolly (Veena Sood), arrives determined to get her son to return home for the festivities and eventually to settle down with a wife himself there. Alim’s solution to the bedroom-farce situation that results is designed by his imaginary alter-ego Cary Grant (Kyle MacLachlan): he pretends that Giles is just his roommate, and that he’s engaged to Giles’ sister Delia (Liisa Repo-Martell). What follows is a collision between real life and Hollywood fantasy as Nuru learns the truth and Giles leaves in irritation at Alim’s treatment of others. The big finale takes the characters back to Toronto for the wedding, where a revelation about Alim’s early relationship with Khaled shakes up the characters’–and, the filmmaker hopes, our–attitudes, leading to Alim’s finally choosing between the make-believe world that the Grant figure represents and a real, truthful future for himself.
There’s the germ of an interesting idea in all this, but Rashid and his cast never manage to infuse it with the energy and charm it desperately needs. In addition to Misty’s misconceived sullenness and humorlessness, Mathew comes across as entirely too abrasive and unpleasant, only rarely letting us glimpse the insecurity and vulnerability beneath the surface, and Sood makes Nuru’s sister into a broad caricature. Holden-Ried and Repo-Martell offer occasional respite as the British siblings–their laid-back turns are rather a contrast to the lack of lightness around them–but it’s MacLachlan who fails most signally to give the picture the brisk, exuberant tone his character is obviously intended to provide. His Grant isn’t much more than a vocal imitation, and a clipped, brusque one at that; in his hands the character is nothing more than poses and unfunny quips, delivered in an emphatic, italicized fashion that drains all charm from the conceit. With a winning rendition of Cary, “Touch of Pink” would still probably not have amounted to much, but without one it’s particularly flat. One has to appreciate the efforts of production designer Gavin Mitchell and cinematographer David A. Makin to give the film some visual elegance on its obviously limited budget, but even in that department the results are mixed. In the end Rashid’s film touches neither the heart nor the funnybone.