The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Post-911 Affronts and Doomed Romance

<i>The Reluctant Fundamentalist</i>: Post-911 Affronts and Doomed Romance
Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed
Kiefer Sutherland and Riz Ahmed
Kiefer Sutherland and Riz Ahmed

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Tower Theater

1508 SW 8th St.
Miami, FL 33135

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Little Havana

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Starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, and Liev Schreiber. Directed by Mira Nair. Not rated. 128 minutes. Opens Friday, May 17, at Tower Theater.

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In the same way novels can be better and worse than journalism at processing history, so can movies be better and worse than novels: too unreal yet too specific. For the movie of Mohsin Hamid's novel, director Mira Nair mounts a sensitive retrospective procedural of radicalization: Here's how a bright young Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) goes straight from Princeton into a boutique corporate valuation firm (with Kiefer Sutherland as his sharkish boss), then has a promising meet-cute with an emotionally unavailable American woman (Kate Hudson), then has his priorities rearranged by the fallout of 9/11. He returns to Pakistan as a university lecturer whose ideas may or may not encourage terrorism, drawing attention from a journalist (Liev Schreiber) whose lengthy interview-cum-standoff serves as the film's narrative frame. At times it's dense and sluggish, too much like a novel. But there is some exhilaration to be had from Nair's sincere interest in Hudson's character, who is appealing but hung up by grief over a previous relationship. In the richest moment, she offends her new suitor with a naively exploitative art project -- she calls it an expression of love; he says it's defamation -- and he stuns himself with the cruelty of his response. Thus the central arc is a function not only of sadly expected post-9/11 affronts -- the airport strip search, the tire slashing, the colleagues getting nervous about his beard -- but also of doomed romance, with a vision of America that's all the more alluring for being so tragically stunted.

 
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