On the surface, the dramedy “For Here or To Go?” might seem like just another riff on a well-worn formula: the hijinks of a group of rambunctious guys trying to make it in Silicon Valley.
But it’s actually quite revolutionary in terms of English-language American-set films as it’s totally from the perspective of Indian immigrants torn between cultures. The men who are often just one-dimensional, geeky caricatures and sidekicks in movies and TV shows are front and center here.
And what starts out appearing to be a romp for ambitious, good-looking software engineer Vivek Pandit (Ali Fazal) and his roommates turns into a surprisingly sober look at the life of young men living with anxieties of which their native-born, white counterparts may only be dimly aware.
They include: the fear of their visas being revoked or not renewed; long-distance pressure from parents to start families; the feeling of being tossed aside by the U.S. when their skills are no longer needed; the guilt some lay on them for not staying in India to help its economy; racism; and homophobia (one of the roommates is struggling with coming out).
Vivek and his buddies are forced to deal with these issues when Vivek realizes extending his visa may not be as easy as he had thought, especially since he wants to switch jobs and it’s in the middle of the recession. It’s all complicated by the presence of one of the roomies’ friends who’s staying with them — and who, through no fault of his own, is now considered undocumented because the college he came here to attend was a scam.
This prompts a visit from the feds and ends up getting all of them put on a watch list.
Meanwhile, Vivek is falling head over heels for Shveta (Melanie Kannokada) whose successful entrepreneur father has become an activist encouraging talented Indians to return to their home country.
Yes, “For Here or To Go?” bites off more than it can chew and, as the first feature from director Rucha Humnabadkar, it is sometimes clunky and heavy-handed as it switches tones from comedy to drama to love story. The acting is all over the map and there’s even a Bollywood-style dance number stuck in the middle of it.
Still, even though the film was made a couple of years ago, the subject matter is topical and the focus is fresh. As such, this view of Silicon Valley makes for a welcome counterpart to HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
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For Here or To Go?
☆☆☆ 1/2 (out of five)
Director: Rucha Humnabadkar
Cast: Ali Fazal, Samrat Chakrabarti, Amitosh Nagpal, Melanie Kannokada
Running time: 103 min.