‘Americanizing Shelley" is a new romantic comedy that is truly an American story. So American, in fact, that it’s been called controversial and the movie’s lead actress, an immigrant from India, Namrata Singh Gujral, has been called "a right-wing nut job." It appears that even a sweet romantic comedy starring an immigrant isn’t immune to Hollywood’s anti-American sentiment.
But there is much more to this story than meets the eye, both on screen and off. This movie represents the American dream in a very real way. Adream that the Hollywood left seems to loathe.
The film highlights the challenges facing a Himalayan village girl who immigrates to America, learns to integrate into American culture, becomes a Hollywood celebrity and falls in love.
Film critic Michael Medved called the film, "[a very] sunny, likeable, romantic comedy that features a star-making performance by Namrata Singh Gujral."
Scott Galupo of The Washington Times said, "Cynics beware: Sweet, soulful and full of heart, this ‘Shelley’ may just prove irresistible."
So, what’s the problem? I interviewed Gujral for a firsthand account of the conflict.
The rub is that the film "portrays Americans in a positive light," Gujral said.
In the movie there is a scene at the Thanksgiving table where Shelley thanks her American friends for teaching her that not all Americans are just out for themselves. During the shooting of that scene, another lead actor turned to Gujral and said, "Oh, this is such right-wing garbage."
Gujral took umbrage with the fellow actor’s statement, as she also wrote and produced this movie.
In an interesting parallel to the screenplay, Gujral is living her American dream and she refuses to compromise. While meeting with a potential investor for the film, the investor agreed to fund the movie as long as they cut the Thanksgiving scene because the positive sentiment about America was too controversial. Gujral declined and found other financing.
"I’m not a political person," Gujral said. "I’m making films to entertain. [The film] is not about being a Democrat or Republican. It’s about loving your country. When did loving your country become a partisan issue?"
She immigrated to the United States at an early age and graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average from the University of West Florida. Gujral apparently paid attention to more than her television and film classes, as she comments on history, "[We] used to have Hollywood stars put their careers on hold to go off to war. But now they don’t even realize we are at war, let alone enlisting."
Interestingly, Gujral included a character in the movie with a military career. She took heat for that as well. It seems that political correctness is soaring to bizarre heights. I asked her if she was concerned that making this movie would hurt her career, even though she is not political.
"I do believe that Hollywood fringe groups will hurt someone’s career," she responded. But after our discussion, I got the impression that Gujral isn’t afraid of much. She explained that the making of "Shelley" was a four-year journey. Like the character of Shelley in the movie, Gujral is making her dream come true, and this film is a huge accomplishment that’s put her on the track to stardom.
An independent movie, "Americanizing Shelley" earned the honor of being voted the "Top Rated Film" by audiences at the San Diego Film Festival while facing tough competition such as Miramax’s "The Queen." The film will premiere internationally at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, in May. It’ll be interesting to learn what the French have to say about it.
While I didn’t find the movie particularly political, it’s an upbeat, feel-good film that doesn’t bash America and is rated a sensible PG. It hits theaters in the United States on today — check your local movie listings for the times and locations.
Kathleen Antrim is a columnist for The Examiner newspapers, and is a correspondent for NewsMax Magazine. She can be heard regularly on Hot Talk 560 KSFO in San Francisco on "The Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan Show."
For more information go to: www.KathleenAntrim.com