I have a confession to make. I’ve struggled a lot with this review. Not because my reaction to Meera Menon’s feature debut was inconclusive. Quite the contrary. I knew I loved this movie the second the credits started rolling. In fact, I think I actually like it too much. As a result I refrained from writing about it for a long time. Maybe I thought I had too much to say, not enough to say or just not the right things to say. Either way, I’ve floundered long enough.
“Farah Goes Bang” is a fantastic movie, which premiered at this years Tribeca Film Festival (Director/Writer Meera Menon also took home the 1st Annual Nora Ephron Award). It tells the story of a 25-year-old woman struggling to lose her virginity as she goes campaigning for John Kerry in 2004 across country with two of her best friends.
The virginity story is nothing new in Hollywood. We’ve seen films about eager young men attempting to lose their virginity in high school countless times. But how many times has the female perspective been done? And if it has been done, how earnest and successful was it? I’m not entirely sure (though “Stealing Beauty” does come to mind) but I think it’s safe to say there is nothing too memorable in that category…until now.
Menon gives the story an Alexander Payne aesthetic here. It’s very reminiscent of “Sideways.” The story balances the fine line between lighthearted and dramatic perfectly. There is a beautiful scene when Farah (expertly portrayed by Nikohl Boosheri) has an interesting conversation with an old Korean War veteran. She arrives on his porch expecting to ask him questions about his political persuasion but is instead asked to sit down for a beer. He turns the tables asks her the questions. What results is a fantastic discussion about choices and sacrifice devoid of politics.
The performances hit all the right notes. Boosheri shines as Farah who, thankfully, is not portrayed as some sort of strange, aloof, and geeky virgin. No, Farah is actually beautiful, competent, sociable and just a little confused (not “defective” as she calls herself in the film). Kandis Erickson plays K.J., the fun, tough and fiercely loyal companion to Roopa and Farah. The few moments of racial tension in this movie affect K.J. more than her brown counterparts and land her in a bit of trouble with the authorities, which results in a fantastic exchange between all three girls when they bail her out. Kiran Deol turns in an equally inspiring performance as the politically focused but quirky Roopa. The funniest lines about sex, politics and female grooming often come out of her mouth. The chemistry between all three actresses takes it to another level.
So what are the drawbacks? I suppose you could say there is an air of predictability to the plot. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be surprised during the experience. It just may not be in the way you expect. Menon and writer/producer Laura Goode have crafted a wonderful coming of age story about a 25-year-old brown woman in America that any race or gender can relate to. That right there, is the surprise.