If there were ever a movie designed to make Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin simultaneously crap their pants — pairing all the extreme edginess of an online Mountain Dew commercial with the ethnic “otherness” of a weekend’s cab rides in Manhattan — it would probably have to be The Taqwacores, about a group of young, punkish, fornicating Muslims trying to reconcile their religious beliefs and personal freedoms in a country that isn’t always as welcoming of diversity as its electorate claims.
Co-written and directed by Eyad Zahra, the movie, opening tomorrow in New York and November 12 in Los Angeles and Orange counties, centers on Yusef (Bobby Naderi, above left), a first-generation Pakistani college sophomore who moves into an off-campus house in Buffalo. There, he meets a motley crew of fellow Muslims, and their home becomes a community magnet for Friday prayers as well as music-fueled weekend partying.
Like Holy Rollers, The Taqwacores makes at least some sincere attempt to reconcile an honest faith born from a more orthodox religious sect with the bristling, more hormonally oriented energies of youth. Jettisoning any sense of structure from Michael Muhammad Knight’s novel, though, Zahra pumps up the jittery jump-cuts and opts for surface laughs and tension, not trusting the ability of the material to nervously build to a more natural climax.
The result often feels less “real” or believable, and more like a stumbling collection of characters tilting at windmills, peppered with moments either designed for raw provocation (one character needling another about masturbation and tampon use, another bellowing, “I’m so Muslim I can say, ‘Fuck Islam!'”), or that read as overly telegraphed issue statements on gender equality, sexual identity and the like. And yet there’s undeniably a natural pull to the movie, in large part because of a charismatic supporting performance from Dominic Rains (above right) as Jehangir, the mohawked, reconciliatory chieftain of this colorful clan. Amidst all the willful din and clatter, he smashes stereotypes quietly. (Strand, R, 83 minutes)