Neil Young’s Film Lounge – The Guru



USA 2002 : Daisy Von Scherler-Mayer : 100 mins (approx review based on provisional print)

ONE-LINE REVIEW : Likeably energetic but very lightweight and uneven culture-clash romantic comedy showcasing a fine supporting turn from never-better Heather Graham.

A fluffily lightweight culture-clash farce, The Guru is a full-on showcase for the talents of East Is East star Jimi Mistry. He ’s Ramu Gupta, a snake-hipped Delhi dance instructor who travels to Manhattan aiming to break into showbiz and emulate his idol, John Travolta. Soon discovering that the reality is very different from Saturday Night Fever, he stumbles into a (remarkably unsleazy) low-budget porn-video operation, where he ’s taken in hand by leading lady Sharonna (Heather Graham). But when, after a series of misunderstandings,  ‘Rammy ’ is mistaken for a holy sage by gullible poor-little-rich-girl Lexi (Marisa Tomei), he rides his luck to city-wide fame as  ‘The Guru of Sex ’  – dispensing the carnal advice he obtains from Sharonna during what she thinks are porn-acting lessons.

After Boogie Nights, it ’s either very brave or very foolish to cast  ‘Rollergirl ’ as a girl-next-door porn-star showing a greenhorn newcomer the industry ropes. But The Guru gets away with it by dint of sheer puppyish enthusiasm – Graham and Mistry look like they ’re having an absolute blast, and their energy is infectious, especially in a show-stopping fantasy dance number that brilliantly segues from a full-fig Bollywood parody into  ‘You ’re the One that I Want ’ from Grease.

But too much else falls flat, Tracey Jackson ’s uneven script and Von Scherler Mayer ’s rough-and-ready direction conspiring to undermine whatever boisterous energy the performers manage to generate. Whole lines, scenes and subplots fall flat, with Tomei especially ill-served by a role that isn ’t so much a character, more a thinly-veiled pop at fad-chasing celebs like Madonna. Which is a bit rich, coming from a film which itself is so blatantly desperate to cash in on the current trend for all things Bollywood-tinged.

1st August 2002
(rewrite of original review from July 5th)
(provisional cut seen 14th June, UCI Silverlink, North Shields)

by Neil Young