A sill from Wonder. Photo: AP
A sill from Wonder. Photo: AP

‘Firangi’, ‘Wonder’ among few films to watch for this week

For Hollywood fans, American drama Wonder, directed by Stephen Chbosky and starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay, comes to India this week

New Delhi: What could have been a highly anticipated weekend with the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati now sees a bunch of mid-sized films vying for attention.

Kapil Sharma-starrer Firangi, directed by Rajiev Dhingra, is highly overstretched, and squanders its comic potential despite having a comedian as its hero, says Scroll. Dhingra lovingly creates Punjab of the 1920s, depicted as a happy place with inter-faith harmony and shared values, and casts a nice set of supporting actors, including Rajesh Sharma and Jameel Khan. But the filmmaker doesn’t pay as much attention to the unwieldy and un-involving script. Sharma is barely convincing as a laggard who learns of the evil intentions of the foreigners until it is nearly too late.

Gulf News is more impressed, calling the film more enjoyable than its trailer. But the bad news is it’s a situational comedy that feels like a slick school drama with clear demarcations about heroes and villains. Every emotion in this film—be it love, anger or fear—is inflated exponentially. Set during the British Raj in India, the colonising Englishmen are demonised with glee, the Indian kings are shown as selfish, soulless beings, and the poor villagers are simpletons. But there’s a rustic charm to the comedy as this film dwells on an isolated incident that unites gullible villagers against the cruel colonisers, and not a snapshot of the Independence struggle or the bloodbath ensues.

For Hollywood fans, American drama Wonder, directed by Stephen Chbosky and starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay, comes to India this week. Variety magazine calls it a very tasteful heart-tugger—a drama of disarmingly level-headed empathy that glides along with wit, assurance and grace, and has something touching and resonant to say about the current climate of American bullying. At the same time, the film never upsets the apple cart of conventionality. Wonder is an honest feel-good movie, but it lacks the pricklier edges of art.

Wonder is that rare thing, a family picture that moves and amuses while never overtly pandering, says The New York Times. Chbosky’s 2012 feature, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, split the difference between the sentimental heart-tugging associated with more standard Hollywood fare, and the intelligence and intimacy often associated with independent films. He accomplishes something very similar, and equally worthwhile, here.

American crime thriller Suburbicon, directed by George Clooney and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, is a bizarre, misguided trainwreck, says The Atlantic. Rather than make either a goofily violent Coen-brothers homage or a sober retelling of a real-life incident of American intolerance, Clooney decided to do both at the same time—a decision that marginalizes the two stories in bizarre ways. The result is a film that is both mundanely and inimitably bad. Had Suburbicon committed to its primary crime-caper plot, it might have been just another forgettable, uninspired film. But its attempt to haphazardly take on a weightier tale makes Suburbicon a much rarer, and more mesmerizing, kind of catastrophe.

In the south, Tamil erotic thriller Thiruttu Payale 2, directed by Susi Ganeshan and starring Bobby Simha, Prasanna and Amala Paul, spends considerable time explaining the traps people set for themselves in the world of social media and how it ends up ruining their actual life, says The Indian Express. Most of the things the film deals with are something we already know. Ganeshan wants to caution people to be careful about what they share online. At some point, it begins to feel as ineffective as the statutory warning on cigarette packets.

Tamil action family drama Annadurai, directed by G. Srinivasan and starring Vijay Antony, for all its efforts at being an action film driven by emotions, barely passes muster, says The Times Of India. In his efforts to build up his star, director Srinivasan fails to give us a script that makes us care for the characters. The emotional scenes do not impact us as much as they should, even the climax, with a touch of A Tale Of Two Cities, doesn’t move us, despite the background score’s desperate pleas.

Several releases this week haven’t inspired any reviews yet. These include Arbaaz Khan and Sunny Leone-starrer Tera Intezaar, Telugu action film Jawaan, Kannada horror film Mantram, Malayalam crime thriller Kuntham and Bengali film Biler Diary.

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