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East Is East

Director:Damien O'Donnell
Writer:Ayub Khan-Din
Miramax Films Disney; R; 96 minutes
Cast:Om Puri, Linda Bassett

East Is East follows a Pakinstani-British family living in blue-collar England. Father George Khan (Om Puri) has had seven children with a white woman (Linda Bassett), yet he flaunts cultural authoritarianism and forces Pakistani traditions on his kids. His wife and kids tolerate most of dad's peeves, but they can't deal with the arranged marriages. The oldest son fled his and was subsequently disowned. The next oldest sons are scared witless, especially the one secretly dating the racist white neighbor's daughter.

East Is East has one thing going for it, namely Om Puri. He's a revered dramatist, considered to be one of the best living actors, and he confers riveting humanity on his role as a frustrated man struggling for identity in an antagonistic land. When his actions become more drastic and less likeable, Puri remains absorbing, busting out of a bipolar script and drawing us into a multisided sympathy.

Unfortunately, East Is East has one thing going against it, namely a nearsighted view of cross-cultural exchange. The Pakistani traditions are only used for laughs, and director Damien O'Donnell favors embracing non-ethnic Britishness with great gusto. This attitude flattens the movie, forcing tall actors to stoop.

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