Salman Rushdie rightfully took umbrage at Germaine Greer’s condescending article in The Guardian from 2006 about the protests surrounding the making of Brick Lane, but now that the cat is out of the bag, revealing itself as a nauseating portrayal of immigrant dreams, it practically validates Greer’s wildly presumptuous assertions about authorship and representation. Sarah Gavron, whose outsider relationship to the titular East London curry strip couldn’t be any more obvious or painful, has designed the film with the same book-of-the-month-club demographic Deepa Mehta appeals to in mind, but Mehta’s filmic instincts are at least sensual, whereas Gavron’s are just tawdry and effusive. Awash in trite stylistic shorthand, Brick Lane begins with a candy-colored vision of life in Bangladesh that practically hurts the eyes, and it’s from this movie-trailer sphere of incessantly whooshing fade outs that a young girl departs for a less blissful life in London. Twenty years older, Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is seen enduring a succession of embarrassments at the hand of a husband, Chanu (Satish Kaushik), whose ogre-ish body predictably fits his personality, but whether Chanu is fucking her without looking her in the eyes or snoring profusely, Nazneen at least has her memories of her youth in Bangladesh, where the only thing she and her sister apparently did was run through grassland. If it weren’t painful enough that Gavron deals entirely in cliché caricature (Nazneen is a wilting flower and the stereotypically prideful Chanu speaks entirely in fortune-cookie aphorisms, never admits to being wrong and feels emasculated when Nazneen takes a sewing job to help the family make ends meet), her queasily romanticized style misrepresents the sad and sometimes perilous lives of her subjects. Chanu is surprisingly redeemed by film’s end, but even when 9/11 is invoked the film doesn’t so much suggest a melodrama of the heart and spirit as it does an explosion at a fabric store.
- DVD | Soundtrack | Book
- Sony Pictures Classics
- 110 min
- Sarah Gavron
- Laura Jones, Abi Morgan
- Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, Christopher Simpson, Naeema Begum, Lana Rahman, Zafreen
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: