Two types of people in Los Angels could identify with the newly released DVD, the romantic comedy, “Kissing Cousins:” those is in a relationship and those not in a relationship. Actually there’s a third type, those who’ve just ended a relationship. That’s the specialty of Amir (Samrat Chakrabarti) who’s a professional Relationship Termination Specialist. (In Japan there are actually these types of services, so the premise is not that far-fetched.)
An art school graduate, Amir is 30, handsome, charming and terminally cynical. He makes his living by informing total strangers that his or her significant other is no longer that significant. Lacking the courage or wanting to avoid an unpleasant scene, they’ve hired Amir to explain the reasons for the breakup and help return the personal items. When the recipient of the bad news is at his or her lowest point, Amir heartlessly takes a photo for evidence of a job well done.
One soon to be ex, holding a leash, doesn’t want to return the couple’s dog, pointing out that he bought the animal. But Amir reminds him it was for “her birthday” before cutting the leash and escorting the dog away.
In another, Amir breaks the bad news to a burly auto mechanic. He’s visibly upset at the news but then is more embarrassed when Amir inadvertently announces, loudly enough so the mechanic’s co-workers can hear, the return of his “John Tesh CDs.” (The part was played by Amyn’s real life mechanic, Doyle, the owner of A-1 Auto on Pico Boulevard. Only in L.A. does a mechanic have a SAG card.)
While Amir is devoutly single, many of his closest friends are couples, one married, Tucker (PJ Byrne) and Liza (Lauren Stamile), and one engaged, best friend Charlie (Zack Ward) and his fiancée Tina (Nikki McCauley) They criticize Amir’s profession and constantly put pressure on him to be in a relationship. But having had his heart broken once, and given his work, Amir has zero interest in a relationship. It’s practically a dirty word.
At Thanksgiving, Amir visits his parents, Mr. and Mrs. K, (Gerry Bednob and Anoush NeVart), in San Francisco. Mrs. K is East Indian, but she’s more of a Jewish mother, desperate to see her son married, while Mr. K’s passion is the NFL. Visiting from England is Amir’s beautiful cousin, Zara (Rebecca Hazlewood), whom he hasn’t seen since childhood.
The two cousins, who fought when they were young, get along famously as adults. Wanting to visit Los Angeles, Zara joins Amir when he returns home. As he is swamped at work, Zara assists him and insists he be more sensitive to the poor schnooks receiving the bad news. When she playfully introduces herself to his friends as his girlfriend, and not his cousin, the fun begins.
While it has its share of flaws, “Kissing Cousins” is undeniably endearing. The project was extremely low budget ($500,000) and yet the production value is exceptional. The two lead actors are fresh faces and have a charming chemistry. The cast is convincing and pleasingly diverse, (whites, blacks, East Indians and Asians, as Amir comments, “It’s like the U.N.) It’s the first feature for writer, producer and director Amyn Kaderali who got his BA at UCLA and did his graduate work in film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Compared to so many over-hyped Hollywood movies, “Kissing Cousins” is an unpretentious, often very funny, and inspired film. It might be worth purchasing, or at least Netflix renting. And if, for some reason, you don’t care for the movie, well, at least you’ll know the name of a good mechanic.
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.