London love, captured with humour and heart
The premise for One Crazy Thing isn’t the most enticing of plots. A soap star’s career nosedives after a sex tape of him and his girlfriend goes viral, resulting in her becoming a Hollywood superstar…I wasn’t keen. But within seconds of the intro sequence in which we see Jay’s (Ray Panthaki) innocent face gracing the covers of every UK tabloid, the giggles begin.
A romantic comedy set in the capital, Amit Gupta’s One Crazy Thing is a beautifully crafted tale about finding love, discovering yourself, and the realisation that internet fuelled celebrity culture has far too much power in the world. But more on that later.
The story focusses on Jay who can't find a job or a girl because he is forever associated with his infamous six-hour sex tape - his agent wants him to star in a condom advert, while his dates are only interested in re-enacting the x-rated video. Then one day he meets a girl who he is immediately attracted to and who remarkably, due to her dislike for the internet has never heard about his sex tape. And so begins the cover-up story of Jay trying to hide his past...which clearly is never going to work.
Visually the film is stunning. From serene scenes of The Thames at night to iconic cinema buildings and the backdrop of a chic music store where Jay’s new crush Hannah (Daisy Bevan) works, there is an element of this film being a love letter to the city. It captures the essence of London as being cool and quirky, a place to socialise and also feel completely alone. The characters we meet are genuinely likeable – Charlie (Dan Skinner), Jay’s Welsh actor mate brings warmth to the screen while Hannah’s colleague, Sam (Oliver Hoare) adds hipster humour. There are definite elements of Notting Hill about the movie too, but for me this script is vastly stronger and the plot is more interesting.
Ray's take on the slightly kooky but creative Jay is a joy to watch. I felt his pain every step of the way and even when he begins to realise his flaws as an individual, I wasn't discouraged from sympathising with his character any less.
Amit’s attempt to make us question the power of social media and the internet is an underlying theme of the film. He has cleverly built in our obsession with celebrity culture by showing us the effects on a completely regular person, which makes us realise the absurdity of it. The way Ray’s character is typecast as a soapstar and then pornstar is humorous but it’s not that far from the truth; actors are typecast and in real-life, so are we.
For most part the film is believable. The main flaw is the scene in which Claudia (Riann Steele) Ray’s ex-girlfriend who posted the video online, turns up to apologise. If a Hollywood star really appeared in a London pub, the paparazzi would be camped outside, but Riann didn’t attract any attention, which meant the impact of the sex tape that we had been led to believe was so severe, was diluted. Highlights though are plentiful. There's nothing like a dream scene to have an excuse to do something memorable and a certain cameo here is perfectly cast.
One aspect in particular that Amit captures with conviction is that the film truly breaks stereotypes. Early on I forgot this was a film about Asian characters. This element become a sideline to the story of two adults in the early days of a new relationship. Even the embarrassment of the shame brought on Jay’s family because of the sex tape is expressed as ‘universal shame’, rather than exclusively Asian. When Jay’s mum admits over a family meal that she’s seen an extended version of the tape in a completely non-plussed way, it feels like progress has finally been made.
Films written and directed by South Asian Directors starring South Asian cast members as original and likeable as One Crazy Thing are rare, but Amit Gupta proves it is possible, giving us a flavour of what we can hopefully look forward to more of, in the future.
One Crazy Thing was screened as part of The London Indian Film Festival 2015