First Hit: This film was all over the place; intimate, touching, flat, uninteresting, and in the end survives as being very uneven and forgetful.
This film had heart and it was difficult to find.
The real story, which is revealed prior to the closing credits, is worthwhile. I also don’t mind when Bill Murray, playing music manager Richie Lanz, mixes comedy in a story that is has real merit. But when the mishmash of scenes, supposedly pivotal, are handled in such a stilted and lack luster manner, they discredit the real story and the film.
Take for instance the scene in which Lanz comes back to his hotel room to find Bombay Brian (Bruce Willis) lying on the bed threatening to kill Lanz for money that Lanz didn’t actually owe. Or worse the poor plot device to put Lanz in Kabul Afghanistan without his singer - she just leaves? Or even why Merci (Kate Hudson) is in Kabul hooking herself into a bank account large enough to fund a funky retirement. Let alone the “double-wide” mobile home inside a barbed wire compound the size of the double-wide just outside her front door.
Juxtapose these poorly created scenes with the scene of Salima (Leem Lubany) talking to Lanz on the wall of her city. How Tariq (Fahim Fazil), slowly becomes at peace with his daughter’s boldness to sing in public. I also liked many of the settings, many felt very real.
Murray was both funny and mediocre. Some of the dialogue didn’t work well and other times it was spot on funny. Willis seemed like a friend choice to play a role. He didn’t seem engaged and it felt like he was phoning it in. Hudson’s whole character didn’t seem to add much to the film except to help Lanz live up to his obligations. Lubany was very good and seemed like the only person playing it straight. I personally loved the song choices she sang. Fazil was good as the intense village leader, father and protector of their faith. Mitch Glazer wrote a mixed level script and I don’t know how much it was changed by Murray along the way. Barry Levinson has done much better films (Wag the Dog, Rain Man, or Good Morning Vietnam).
Overall: I walked away disappointed because the whole film seemed like manufactured setup for Murray, but I’m also glad to know that a young woman did actually break a taboo about singing.