Adding wrestling to the rom-com mix doesn’t quite disguise how by-the-numbers this girl-meets-girl story is. But with its likable characters, local color and cross-cultural sparks, “Signature Move” has unsentimental sweetness and pluck.
The Chicago-set romance involves vivacious Chicana bookstore owner Alma (Sari Sanchez) and more guarded Pakistani American attorney Zaynab, played by Fawzia Mirza, who wrote the screenplay with Lisa Donato. The central duo’s professions barely register once things heat up between them — which is quickly, with the standard setbacks, reversals and rapprochements.
Motorcycle-driving Zaynab lives with her widowed mother, Parveen (Indian star Shabana Azmi), who divides her days between watching Urdu-language soaps and scanning the street with binoculars, searching for husband material for her clearly not interested daughter. The thirtysomething Zaynab’s inability to tell her mother who she is, and Parveen’s unwillingness to see it, are the crux of the matter, underscored by the contrasting openness between Alma and her mom (Charin Alvarez).
Zaynab gets to let off steam in wrestling lessons from a take-no-prisoners client (Audrey Francis) — a handy narrative link to Alma, whose mother was once a lucha libre star. As engaging as the two leads are, the most intriguing characters are their single parents, with Azmi and Alvarez suggesting depths in what might have been one-note roles.
With a nod to Mexico’s luchadoras and all Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, director Jennifer Reeder puts questions of sexual and ethnic identity into the ring, bringing vibrant energy to predictable maneuvers.
In English, Urdu and Spanish with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills