Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Two-Cents on Shades of Ray

Shades of Ray was this little independent romantic-comedy starring Chuck's Zachary Levi that came out in 2008. If one of my Tumblr friends hadn't mentioned it, I probably would have never come across it, and I am glad that I did because it quickly became one of my favorite movies.

The premise was pretty straight forward. Ray Rehman (Zachary Levi) was a half Pakistani/Caucasian twenty-something living in L.A. in order to be an actor. He's in a committed relationship and even popped the question, but his girlfriend (Bonnie Somerville) took some time to give him an answer. While waiting for a yes or no, Ray's father (Brian George) showed up after a big fight with his wife (Kathy Baker). Mr. Rehman's visit was two-fold, to crash with his son after being kicked out of his home and to convince Ray to start dating a Pakistani woman. While in L.A., Ray's dad introduced him to Sana Khaliq (Sarah Shahi) which of course created some conflicting emotions in our protagonist's head and heart.

In a lot of ways, I'm surprised Zach Braff wasn't in this movie because it's right up his alley, and that's not a swipe. It just felt an awful like a Zach Braff kind of film with its quarter-life crisis angst and acoustic rock soundtrack. All kidding aside, Shades of Ray was able to cherry pick the best parts of Garden State and The Last Kiss and put them together to form a very familiar plot. That being said, Ray wasn't your run of the mill indie rom-com because it was able to navigate through the trials and tribulations of family, love, and self-identity with humor, warmth, and its own unique voice.

What made Shades of Ray stand out amongst the aforementioned Braff vehicles, and other movies like Numb and (500) Days of Summer, was the fact that it addressed how a young man of mixed heritage viewed himself and how his self-identity and worth impacted his love life. Not many movies have characters that are multi-racial, and since I'm of two different ethnic backgrounds it was refreshing to see the subject discussed. While I do wish the movie focused more on Ray's path towards self-discovery and less on his daddy issues, it was still nice watching someone take a similar journey that I've been on.

The acting was surprisingly good, and the cast was a who's who of cult TV (shows like LifeDollhouse, Entourage, Heroes, and Reaper were represented). Zachary Levi did a good job as Ray, although the character may have been a little too similar to Chuck Bartowski. The break through performance was Brian George's because he was able to make Javaid Rehman traditional without turning him into a stereotype, and he was responsible for most of the laughs along with Fran Kranz as Sal. Unfortunately, the female characters were not as dimensional as their male counterparts, but Sarah Shahi's Sana was charming without being quirky like so many love interests that populate these kinds of movies. The storyline and characters of Shades of Ray felt customary, but they weren't stale thanks to some solid acting.

Shades of Ray didn't reinvent the independent romantic comedy, but it's inclusion of racial self-identity set it apart, and its ability hit all of the tried and true tropes of the genre made for an entertaining watch. People should definitely check it out if they have Instant Netflix, Amazon On-Demand, or iTunes.

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