Commentary

May 17, 2013

Fly Over: ‘When in Doubt’, and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

In bookstores:

WheninDoubt

‘When in Doubt’

My female hormones sometimes hijack my body. On one such occasion, I decided to read “When in Doubt, Add Butter” by Beth Harbison. The novel was like romantic crack, laden with optimism and romantic sweetness. It satisfied my hormones but left a bad taste in my soul, momentarily tricking me into believing that fairy tales might actually exist.
The novel centers on Gemma, a personal chef who cooks for families in their homes. Though she gave up a lucrative career to cook, Gemma is content in her job, though it’s not entirely without a few negatives. Indeed, Gemma is carefree and worries little about her existence here on Earth at the beginning of the novel. I adored and admired her blithe, headstrong character who creates her own existence.
But as is the plight for all independent, confident women in the romantic genre, she suddenly finds herself lonely, weak and pitiful.
As a woman in her 40s, the urge catches up with her and she realizes she lacks an essential element to happiness — a man. Predictably, “Fate” brings her a man in the shape of a one night stand who lights up her life and seems to be exactly perfect for her. He saps most of her focus and energy meanwhile, Gemma’s career begins to spiral downward with a string of misfortunate clients. And, like so many people, she doesn’t have money saved for emergencies.
The more I read Gemma’s development, the more I cringed at Harbison’s creation of this female protagonist. Why do women in books suddenly find their deepest longing in life to be a man? Harbison’s fantastical and sadly predictable world proved disappointing as I guessed most of the plot twists and longed for her to surprise me.
The one redeeming factor remains the dialogue. Harbison captured witty banter several times, and I found myself chuckling aloud at a few of the jokes that slipped in slyly. She planned moments that captured some of the great humor of the context of a situation. Yet, I desired that she let the rest of the novel ring truer with realism just like the dialogue.
Overall, the book left me with a fuzzy glow much as a Hallmark movie would, but also failed to satisfy my reading needs much as rice leaves you full only to eat again two hours later.
Harbinson’s dialogue mixed with a little of Fitzgerald’s stark reality and a dash of Shakespeare’s plot would make a really stellar novel. Now that recipe screams for a reading much more than Harbinson’s “When in Doubt, Add Butter.”
This book feels like an appetizer; definitely not a main dish. As a simple, feel good romance it succeeded admirably; however, it certainly could not satiate my literary hunger. So, if in a meaningless existence where you long for sappy love or your hormones kidnapped you, grab some Bonbons, a drink and read this book.
Otherwise, if predictable romances cause gagging, grab something heartier and a little more believable, perhaps “Les Miserables.”

In theaters:

Reluctant

‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

As a pseudo-intellectual I jump at the opportunity to view screenings for independent films, one because I thoroughly enjoy watching movies that rely more on acting, writing etc. than on big-budget explosions, but mostly because it builds my street cred as a movie critic. However, sometimes the little films bite off more than they can chew as is the case with famed Bollywood director Mira Nair’s (Monsoon Wedding) “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”
Nair attempts in two hours to weave an assortment of lessons in an effort to enlighten the audience, but instead the viewer is left feeling a bit dumbfounded as the story delves into the evils of capitalism and prejudice. The story starts out with Changez (Riz Ahmed) a college professor in Lahore, Pakistan, sitting down for an interview with Bobby Lincoln (Live Shcrieber), an American journalist. The interview is under the guise of an article; however, it becomes quickly apparent that Lincoln is simple trying to get information on the whereabouts of an American college professor who works at the same university as Changez. Though Changez knows Lincoln is a “Spook” and works for the CIA, he decides it makes sense to tell Lincoln his life’s story.
So, the film begins a series of flashbacks as Changez goes from a wealthy Pakistani neighborhood to Ivy League Princeton. After four years of undergraduate work, Changez separates himself and is accepted into a big Wallstreet firm, headed by Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland), and quickly becomes a consulting savant – swiftly rising through the ranks. At 25, Changez is living the American dream with wealth and an artsy girlfriend played by a very plump Kate Hudson, but then the towers fall. Suddenly, being Pakistani in America is no longer ideal.
Occasionally, the film flashes back to current-day Lahore presumably to develop a poorly conceived political thriller. Changez, who to this point has had everything go his way, begins to experience hardship. He is strip-searched at an airport, called a few names, mistakenly arrested and his girlfriend, who from the get-go is emotionally and mentally unstable, hosts an art show that embarrasses Changez by delving into their relationship. However, he ultimately has a change of heart about his career when on a business trip he’s tasked with closing down a publisher in Istanbul, Turkey. At about this point is when the story becomes confusing, is Changez disillusioned with Capitalism, America or both? He tells Lincoln while interviewed that he was awed by the audacity of the 9/11 terrorists – referring to David and Goliath. Eventually, Changez heads back to Pakistan where he’s shown sulking for a time before becoming a college professor who lectures on revolution. The film quickly turns to present-day Pakistan and their interview. Here the film’s ambitious, though flawed, story about culture clashes mixes with an awkward attempt at a political thriller. I won’t spoil the “suspenseful” climax, but it certainly isn’t unique.
Nair tried albeit unsuccessfully to dissect the cultural divide and inform the audience. At times you can sympathize with Changez, certainly no one enjoys harsh words or suspicious stares. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to truly empathize with a character who came from wealth, became wealthier in pursuit of the American Dream and then changed his mind because of a few name calling incidents and a failed relationship. Instead, Changez came across as a privileged individual who was forced to confront obstacles and found it difficult to overcome. He had a severe case of tender heart syndrome. A more interesting story would have been Changez finding the fortitude to triumph over ignorance, which is prevalent in every country and culture though you wouldn’t know it from the film.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is rated R for language, some violence and brief sexuality.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Tech. Sgt. Timothy Boyer

Construction plan supports F-35 program

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Boyer An Australian F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter prepares to launch Aug. 25 at Luke Air Force Base. Luke is scheduled to have 144 F-35s by 2024 with 11 countries training pilots and maintainers here...
 
 
frana_g

The Psychology of Leadership

Lt. Col. Gregory Frana When given the opportunity to lead, how do great leaders ensure people want to follow them? In the military it is sometimes the case that followers simply have to follow, but what makes people “want” ...
 
 

Refuse to fear change

Are you afraid of change? Most people are. Every day we experience change in our lives, and we certainly can’t hide from it. We learn and grow from changes; that’s what makes the world go around. With all of the Air Force and day-to-day life changes, learning to deal with change must be one of...
 

 
3_150818-F-LC301-007

Munition flight’s isolation strengthens unit

Senior Airman Christopher Bolling, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight precision guided missiles bay chief, and Eddie Hutton, 56th EMS Munitions Flight crew member, work on an air-to-air missile. The munitions ...
 
 

IN BRIEF

Stand up for vets The 3rd Annual Stand Up For Veterans event is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Glendale Community College Student Union. There will be employment opportunities, social services, legal services, free hair cuts for veterans, free lunch for vets and their families, and more. Vets can apply for healthcare and...
 
 
4_150810-F-LC301-003

Reservist lends hand

Master Sgt. Steven Joubert, 944th Detachment 1, is the first Air Reserve aircrew chief to hold a position within the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit since 2007 when the 944th Fighter Wing underwent changes in the base realignme...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>