After enduring a plethora of films that focus on sexual coming-of-age from a male perspective, it is refreshing to see more films hitting the festival circuit that tackle the subject from a female point of view. This year alone has seen films like Young & Beautiful, Gabrielle and the hotly debate Palme d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color leave their mark on audiences. A worthy addition to this trend is Farah Goes Bang, Meera Menon’s charming debut feature.
The film follows the typical road trip movie tropes as three friends, from diverse backgrounds, set out on a trip that will ultimately shape them as adults. Farah (Nikohl Boosheri) is an American of Persian heritage who cannot wait until the day George W. Bush is out of office. Along with her best friends Roopa (Kiran Deol) and K.J. (Kandis Erickson), Farah travels cross-country to Ohio in order to campaign for Senator John Kerry. While helping Kerry get into the oval office is the main goal of the trip, Roopa and K.J. think the journey would be the perfect occasion for Farah to finally lose her virginity. Though eager to take that next step, Farah is not as comfortable with her own sexuality as her two cohorts. As Election Day approaches, the three women not only experience the good and bad of American culture, but also learn a lot about themselves along the way.
One of the things that immediately stuck me about Menon’s film is how she blends Farah’s quest for sexual fulfillment with the political climate in America. At times the film is a little reminiscent of Y Tu Mama También but far lighter in tone. While Menon does not reach Cuaròn’s level of scope or depth, she does a good job of showing the heightened bigotry and pain within the country as a result of 9/11. This is not only seen through the racism that Farah and Roopa encounter while campaigning, but also in K.J.’s seemingly uncontrollable rage. While it would be unfair to divulge what drives K.J.’s emotions, I will say that it effectively hits home after watching the poignant scene in which Farah sits down to talk with a Bush supporter who is a Korean War veteran.
Moments like these provide a more human face to the America depicted in the film, as Menon tries to avoid the typical Red States and Blue States clichés. The grounded approach is also what helps to make the three leads so entertaining. Though they have normal sexual urges like their male counterparts, the characters are never defined by men. Each one is unique and interesting in their own right. Farah is particularly intriguing not only because of her political beliefs, but her subtle desire to keep her heritage as an important facet of who she is. She is such an endearing character that I was willing to look past the rugged tall dark stranger trope that occurs in the last act.
Farah Goes Bang may have a rather straightforward, and at times predictable, approach, but that is by no means a reason to skip this film. Menon crafts an undeniably charming and assured debut that treats both the characters and the audience with the utmost respect. Farah Goes Bang is a joyous film that offers an interesting take on both female sexuality and politics in America.
Sat Nov 9, 4:00 PM, The Royal