Women on Film – “Crossing Over” – Susan Granger reviews

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Think of this as the “Crash” and “Babel” of illegal-immigration ensemble dramas. Set in Southern California, its stereotypical characters and structured story lines keep crossing and bumping into each other.

There’s Max Brogan (Harrison Ford), a gruff but wearily sympathetic Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who is trying to reunite an illegal Mexican, Mireya Sanchez (Alice Braga), caught in a sweatshop raid, with her young son. His partner Hamid Baraheri (Cliff Curtis) comes from a wealthy Iranian family who fled the 1979 revolution and is dishonored by the behavior of his sister, Zahra (Melody Khazae), a sexy young woman who has become way too assimilated. And Hamid just happens to be there when a Korean teen, Yong Kim (Justin Chon), and his pals rob a convenience store. Then there’s a Bangladeshi Muslim teen, Taslima Jahangir (Summer Bishil), who faces F.B.I. deportation after she naively writes a school essay in which she says she understands the motives of the 9/11 hijackers. Her crusading defense attorney, Denise Frankel (Ashley Judd), wants to adopt an African orphan stuck in a detention center, despite the objections of her sleazy husband, Cole (Ray Liotta), an immigrations application adjudicator who is sexually exploiting an ambitious Australian starlet, Claire Sheperd (Alice Eve), whose visitor status doesn’t permit her to work and whose British musician boyfriend, Gavin Kossef (Jim Sturgess), is posing as an expert in Judaism to get his green card.

Problem is: none of these diverse micro-dilemmas are explored in any depth, although they culminate with a mass citizenship ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Writer/director Wayne Kramer (“The Cooler”), who emigrated from South Africa in 1986, skims over the surface of the interconnected issues, stressing the challenge of enforcing fair immigration legislation within an overburdened governmental system.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Crossing Over” is a lurid, contrived 4. So it’s understandable why Oscar-winner Sean Penn reportedly requested that his small role be eliminated from the final cut.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.