"Nina's Heavenly Delights" opens the 2007 Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, and the lighthearted romance is the perfect flick to kick off the 11-day film festival that runs from Sept. 6 to 16.
The movie opens with Nina (Shelley Conn) as a young girl, cooking Indian food with her father. He tells her "No matter what the recipe is, always follow your heart." This, of course, is the movie's main message and prepares the audience for a story that's both charming and cliché.
In the next scene, Nina is a grown woman who returns home to Glasgow after hearing that her father died. For three years, she has lived in London and rarely communicates with her family, but upon her arrival she's tossed instantly into a bitter mix of grief and family drama.
Nina learns that her father's Indian restaurant is in financial danger, and consequently her mother and brother have plans to sell it to a family rival. Meanwhile, her brother tells her he is going to drop out of medical school, her younger sister (Zoe Henretty) is secretly pursuing Scottish dance despite her parents' disapproval and her best friend, Mohan (Raad Rawi), is obsessed about his upcoming audition with an Indian film company.
As part owner of the restaurant, Nina decides she is going to enter a televised curry cook-off to save the family's business. She employs old college friend Lisa (Laura Fraser), and the two instantly rekindle their friendship. Eventually, they discover their feelings for each other surpass old school chums and fall in love, having to hide their passion from Nina's mother who is still recovering from the fact Nina bolted to London to escape an arranged marriage.
Unfortunately, the audience sees very little of the ladies' spicy passion -- just a smooch here and a dress unzipping there. The lack of on-screen love scenes keeps it sweet, but leaves the audience hungry for a little more action that would have provided a heartier visual feast while making their relationship more believable.
There's something very familiar about this film, which at times feels satisfying and indulgent like comfort food, but at other times just seems trite. The story showcases stereotypes, the plot is pretty predictable and although the acting is good, the character development is half-baked. In fact, we know very little about Nina's life beyond her family, and we're told almost nothing about Lisa who is instrumental in Nina's coming out.
However, in director Pratibha Parmar's defense, the film might be cliché when compared to movies about straight people -- it's reminiscent of "East Is East" and the final scene is similar to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" -- but in the LGBT film arena, it might break new ground.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.