Greetings again from the darkness. This feature film debut from writer/director Meera Menon and co-writer Laura Goode played Tribeca in 2013, as well as a few others on the film festival circuit since. It takes only a few minutes before it’s clear that Ms. Menon has no inhibitions about displaying the human side of women.
Three friends decide to hit the road in support of Senator John Kerry in his 2004 Presidential campaign against George Bush. These early 20-somethings are bright, idealistic and seeking a cause … they call the Iraqi war “our Vietnam”, and characterize Kerry as the closest thing they have to Bobby Kennedy. Getting Kerry elected may be their first mission, but Roopa (Kiran Deol) and KJ (Kandis Erickson) also have a second mission of making sure their friend Farah (Nikohl Boosheri) loses her virginity (they use a much more colorful colloquialism).
A road trip from Los Angeles to the hotly contested political environment of Ohio offers a few interesting characters along the way: a rude redneck, a thoughtful conservative veteran, and an energetic and opinionated transgender. It also allows the three friends plenty of time for heavy drinking (sometimes until they hurl), pot smoking (to test the alarm), brawling (more than once), exceedingly colorful language, and the expulsion of bodily gas. That’s right … all the things we have come to expect from a road trip movie featuring guys are presented in full female glory. Plus as an added bonus, we get numerous scenes revolving around the ongoing challenges of Persian women’s grooming habits.
Racism and sexism are touched upon, but mostly this movie is about friendship. Unfortunately, the story bounces from comedic to ultra-serious and we only get brief flashes of the girls’ backstories … all of which could have added depth to the film. It seemingly takes forever to get to the core of KJ’s anger-management issues, and Farah’s hang-ups with doing the deed make a bit more sense once we understand her family story.
It’s impressive to see how Ms. Menon brings out the human side in her three leads, and each of the actresses boldly goes “there” to show the connection to each other. On the downside, somehow both the political play and the virginity device (complete with fireworks) come across as annoyances that distract from watching how three real friends interact with each other. Future Menon films will undoubtedly fulfill the promise only teased at by her debut.