Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
This direct to video comedy does far better than its regional-theater pedigree would indicate,
thanks to a clever script and some good performances. Viewers need to be told that this is not
a melding of the Indian film craze with a Hollywood story, but a camp farce with plot similarities
to Sunset Blvd. in a gay context.
Despite some low-budget concerns there's a lot to be appreciated here, mainly in the talent
department. It fares far better than the average garage indie - I'd call it a nicely expanded
version of a funny stage play, and it gets a good range of laughs - a rarity these days.
The film takes an optimistic view of the issue of gay marriage but throws its net a little wider
than a gay-only audience. Savant appreciated Bollywood and Vine's clever references to
the already campy "battle of the Divas" horror subgenre started by Joan Crawford and Bette Davis
back in the 60s.
Aging scream queen Delilah Leigh (Skye Aubrey) hasn't made a film in decades, but hope
rises anew when Indian immigrant tour bus driver Bhuvan Bannerji (Jamey Schrick) makes daily stops
at her Hollywood home to regale his customers about her career. Delilah's gay son Devin (J.R. Jones)
takes to impersonating his own mother in drag for the tour bus, which leads to Bhuvan writing a
comeback script and leaving it at Delilah's door. When Bhuvan claims that Delilah would be a hit
in an Indian picture, the three collaborate on rewriting the script, with Devin all the while fooling
Bhuvan on the slippery subject of his real sex. When Bhuvan finally realizes what's going on,
Delilah takes a page from one of her Baby Jane-like scenarios and locks the two boys in
the attic together. As the trio work out their differences, the neighborhood undergoes a spate
of accidental deaths, blackmail and mass hostage-taking.
Yes, it looks to be shot on digital video and there's a shortage of production finesse when the
story widens to include police investigations and new reports, but Bollywood and Vine is
a great showcase for the three leads. Jamey Schrick is the standout in the role of the Indian
movie fan; I'm assuming he's not Indian but his impersonation carries no feeling whatsoever of
parodic, "I'm from Bombay and talk funny" schtick. His Bhuvan character compares favorably with
Peter Sellers' oversold comic performance in The Party. Experienced actress Skye Aubrey
(the daughter of James Aubrey, MGM's axeman and joykiller of the early 70s) is also excellent
as the has-been star of Z-horror films and scenery-chewers featuring demented dames holding
people prisoners in attics or basements. Aubrey hits an appropriate tone of "Tallulah Bankhead
J.R. Jones is an actor who does a good female impersonation, or a good female impersonator with
impressive acting abiity. The film leans more toward farce than gay activity per se - nothing
more than The Birdcage - but there is a gay kiss or two in the mix.
Bollywood and Vine uses the film references well. Delilah Leigh isn't nuts; she would just like a little recognition and maybe a new role to play. When things start to go wrong life imitates art. Delilah's use of her attic for a prison is a natural development, nicely prepared in writer Edward Jordon's movie-crazy script. As for the drag business and the exaggerated gay humor, it was clever enough not to get in the way of my appreciating the story's arc. Just about the only development that seemed forced was Bhuvan's eventual acceptance of Devin as a boyfriend - but maybe that's just Savant's predilection for straight solutions to comedic problems.
Trish Dempsey is a lively problem neighbor, another over-the-hill actress hungry for work. She ends up a body-disposal problem. The final quarter of the picture has pacing issues that a bigger budget and better peripheral actors would solve. The film should serve as a great resumé piece for the three leads and the writer-directors, and it won't disappoint viewers looking for this kind of campy comedy. I hope Schrick, Aubrey and Jones get the attention they deserve.
The independent outfit behind the DVD of Bollywood and Vine hails from Florida; I believe I first heard of the film through screenings around Hollywood back in the summer of 2004. The DVD looks fine; the DV camerawork is professional. All the audio was clear.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Bollywood and Vine rates:
Sound: Very Good
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: November 9, 2004
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson