Raspberry Magic
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Raspberry Magic

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In the golden age of Hollywood the major studios undoubtedly provided the world with entertainment but they also served as the training ground to develop young talent. While charges of abuse finally ended this practice for the most part a new school for tomorrow’s stars has begun to bring in bumper crops of many of the most promising actors on the scene today. For example consider Ellen Page. In 2007 she was in a little independent film, "Juno’ made for about $7.5 million that brought in over $150 million in box office alone, now she is one of the most sought after actresses around and a definite member of the A List. It seems that the world of independent film has expanded its role from nurturing new filmmakers and exploring innovative techniques and themes not of interest to the big studios. I’ve been a staunch supporter of Indy films and lately I’ve been amazed at the quality of young talent that is coming up through that remarkable venue. One of the most recent films that I predict will make the filmmaker and stars globally recognizable names. The film ‘Raspberry Magic’ is an example of an independent movie that is not only expertly crafted but performed by a cast that knows how to reach the emotional core of their audience. St its heart it is a coming of age story about a pre tween girl that is surprising in how truthfully it addresses the themes contained in its story. This is a perfect example of a movie that would in all probability be ruined by a major studio. They would either gear it towards the bubblegum tween market or amp up the salacious meter to sell it to the Friday night teen crowd. The thought of cresting a finely balanced, sensitive piece just wouldn’t carry the requisite earning potential denying it the much deserved opportunity to be made. As is frequently the case Independent film is the only sanctuary of the artistic grown of the medium rather than being trapped by necessity to the fiduciary interest that motivate the majority of the film industry. For some filmmakers the realization of their imagination and telling the story they need to tell overpowers the need for money. True, funding is necessary but for some of cinematic artisans the seeing their vision through to fruition is what really counts. I have a strong feeling that for the auteur here, Leena Pendharkar, this is defiantly the case.

Monica Shah (Lily Javaherpour) is an eleven year old girl but already she is being crushed by the weight of the grown up world. Her parents are undergoing a tumultuous time in their marriage and are in the verge of splitting up. Her father Manoj (Ravi Kappor) and Mother Nandini (Meera Simhan) are constantly arguing and the thing about such adult matters they always filter down to affect the children. Monica and her younger sister Gina (Keya Shah) are bombarded by anger and rage they are not able to process from the vantage point of their young years. Manjo is not a mean-spirited husband and father, quite the opposite. He loves his family and wants to be able to provide form them in a style beyond his means. He is a dreamer who wants to design a computer game that will ensure the financial security of his wife and children. Nandini has her own take on success as she tries to find a publisher for her cookbook. Meanwhile the rain drips in from a roof in dire need of repair and the regular housework is relegated to the daughters, so busying hawking her cookbook she can’t find time to cook for her own family. Both parents are infected with the American dream losing sight of the family they are ostensibly trying to provide for. Although this is an Indian-American family the scenario depicted and the themes explored are universal reaching beyond our own ethic ties or familiar circumstances connecting directly with the heart of the viewer. Monica, like many children of her age and predicament has a propensity towards magical thinking. If she can achieve some goal or task, everything will go back to normal. In her case she focuses her attention on the upcoming science fair. She is a bright child doing well in school with an analytical nature so she decides if she wins the fair the family will rediscover the love that apparently has fled. Thinking back to a more peaceful time Monica recalls a patch of Raspberries that grew nearby and suddenly died. Here hypothesis is an out pouring of love directed towards the plants will revitalize their grown and restore love to her family. Her efforts are encouraged by the groundskeeper, Henry (James Morrison), who is taken by her gentle manner and becomes a kindly mentor to her. Also in Monica’s life is her best friend Sarah (Bella Thorne), who is also experiencing a troubled home life. The visible antagonist here is school mate Zach (Zachary Mills) m who seeks the science fair prize for himself with a flashy robot.

I found myself draw to watch this film several times before attempting to go to my keyboard and start my review. The reason was not that it was so complicated or dense that it required several viewing to comprehend, quite the opposite. The film is captivating with a simplistic surface that lies atop a deep pool of emotions. There is integrity to this story that is breathtaking. As the writer Ms Pendharkar avoids the pitfall of instilling too much ‘inner meaning’ that the fundamental story is obscured. Instead she constructs a set of realistic circumstances and populates it with multidimensional characters fully capable of carrying the story. No literary devices or derivative plot devices are necessary as Pendharkar sets before her audience a tale of childlike trust and belief in the power of love. As the director of the film Ms Pendharkar demonstrates an inherent trust for her cast and guides the young actors to performances beyond the grasp of actors more than three times their age. This ability to nurture her young cast helping them find the emotional voice of the piece is astonishing. There is something about the portrayal on Monica by young Miss Javaherpour that is touching, endearing and quite memorable. Thanks to the tutelage she received here and an intrinsic gift I envision her holding a gold stature in her future. I was pleasantly surprised to see an aspiring Disney troupe member, Bella Throne here. She appeared as a regular in the penultimate season of HBO’s ‘Big Love’ and co-stars in the energetic Disney dance oriented tween sit-con ‘Break It Up’. Here she demonstrates an acting talent that she will hopefully continue to cultivate. This is what independent film is all about and why it is critical to the art of cinema; artistic worth that must be experienced to be fully appreciated.

Posted 07/19/12

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