By Gregg Shapiro
The best way to describe Jennifer Reeder’s multicultural lesbian rom-com Signature Move (Newcity) is to call it a delight. Sweet as a mango lassi but with a kick like hot salsa. From the opening shot of the street sign at the intersection of W. Devon Avenue and N. Oakley Avenue, it’s clear that we are in the section of Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood where all the East Indian and Pakistani restaurants and stores are located.
Zaynab (Fawzia Mirza, who also co-wrote the screenplay) is a lawyer who helps her clients with the visa process and immigration issues, among other things. She wears a helmet when she rides her red motor scooter, and she lives with her widowed mother Parveen (Shabana Azmi), who moved in with Zaynab after he father died the year before. Parveen spends her time watching Pakistani soap operas and looking out the window through binoculars, searching for a husband for Zaynab.
When client Jayde (Audrey Francis) aka female wrestler Jolt is unable to pay for Zaynab’s services, she offers to train her in her gym and Zaynab accepts. One afternoon, Zaynab stops into The Hideout for a drink, and she meets bookstore owner Alma (Sari Sanchez). They don’t click immediately, but after a few shots (okay, a lot of shots), they end up dancing together vertically at the bar and then horizontally at Alma’s.
Alma has a considerably different relationship with her family than Zaynab has with hers. Alma is out to her mother Rosa (Charin Alvarez), a former wrestler in Mexico, and openly discusses Zaynab with her. Zaynab, on the other hand, is deeply closeted, and worries about upsetting her religious and conservative mother.
The secrets that Zaynab keeps and the lies that she tells are the central conflict of the movie and threaten to sink her relationship with Alma before it ever has a chance to set sail. With a definite lean more towards the comedic than the serious side, Signature Move smashes the myth of the humorless lesbian like a piledriver. Mirza and Sanchez are splendid, as are the supporting players. Moviegoers would be wise to make the move to see Signature Move. DVD bonus features include audio commentary by director Reeder and actress/screenwriter Mirza as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews with cast and crew members.
Signature Move is released on digital/VOD on February 13 (iTunes, Amazon Instant, GooglePlay), and February 15 (Amazon Prime).