As beautiful as it is melancholy
Neither is it a movie that lauds the underdog, nor is it a rags-to-riches tale. Man Push Cart is the unresolved, bittertrue story of a man trying to make a living, pushing a coffee/bagel cart, on the streets of New York City.
For those who haven't caught them first-hand, let me tell you that these carts are a veritable sub-economy that survive below-the-line, on tiny profit margins, predominantly eaten into by leasing agents and taxes. The guys who run the vendy are usually Indian/Pakistani/Middle Eastern, and in most cases, pleasant and chirpy with curious greetings that put a smile on your face, regardless of the struggle that they face commuting from the bronx or brooklyn every morning, in order to get their carts on to their pre-prescribed locations before the morning rush-hour begins. My usual guy has a brilliant memory for regular customers and their orders, a way with words that is sure to brighten everyone's day along with their morning coffee, and speed and efficiency better than a six-sigma certified supply chain system. Everyone who works in the city has their favorite coffee vendy.
MPC talks about one such guy, and his cart, and effortlessly outlines his struggle and life to create a moving and non-Moral-Science-ish experience. The unexplored twist lies in the fact that he is actually a rock star back in Pakistan, whose career didn't quite sustain at its peak, post which he came to America for the woman he loved. What I liked is that the intricacies of how he ended up working a cart, are never outlined - thereby avoiding all unnecessary plot diversions. As Ebert put it best, "free from contrived melodrama and phony suspense". The film cracked an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes - the only movie site I have come to trust these days.
The camera is an off-center spectator in this film. It doesn't sparkle with any technical brilliance, nor does it require to. It doesn't even boast of a brilliant screenplay or script, being neo-realistic in its approach.
Ahmad Rizvi is sublime and underplayed - just what his character demands - his sincere expression makes him lovable, and very easy to empathize with. The plot (or lack thereof) is fluid, and has one captured with rapt attention as they traverse his life.
If you plan to watch only 1 indie flick before the year goes out, let this be it.