Review: ‘Shirin in Love’ puts the ‘Eh’ in Tehrangeles
We’ve had My Big Fat Greek Wedding, we’ve had Bend it Like Beckham, and so director Ramin Niami decided it was time to make a Persian version of those lovable cross-culture comedies, except while My Big Fat Greek Wedding brought uproarious laughter and Beckham advanced the feminist cause through sharp, bhangra-to-goalpost writing, Shirin in Love accomplishes – well – not much.
That isn’t to say Shirin in Love is completely devoid of quality, which comes out in little trickles here and there. The problem is, it’s a mishmash of awkward dialogue, shallow characters and contrived storytelling. The chemistry between Shirin (Nazanin Boniadi) and William (Riley Smith) is pretty elusive, making the love story in, say, Bride and Prejudice, look like a classic romance for all time, and the portrayal of Persian culture in Los Angeles (or Tehrangeles, as it is called) brings out the worst elements of Shahs of Sunset. If the goal was to present Iranian Americans as overly materialistic, money-guzzling, style-obsessed people with a few exceptions, mission accomplished. Persian Americans deserve better than to feed into stereotypes like that.
The story follows Shirin, an allegedly absent-minded Iranian girl (she keeps driving through the same stop sign) with bigger dreams than the ones expected by her mother (Anita Khalatbari): Work for my trashy style magazine and marry rich. One would think Shirin has a predictable life, but a series of encounters – some clichéd, others just poorly conceived — leads her to ditch the man she’s supposed to marry for the mysterious William. Fortunately, she has an ally in her father (Marshall Manesh), who helps protect her from the conniving demands of her mother. In the end, will she choose the life expected of her or the life she wants, even as her mother makes her best attempt to sabotage the latter?
One of the few bright spots is Amy Madigan, who hasn’t appeared in too many notable things since breaking out in Field of Dreams, but clearly still possesses the same acting prowess. As William’s ailing mother, she brings complexity and stability to the film, and it’s a shame she’s not in it more. Boniadi has talent, but the constraints of the role capsize her abilities, forcing the audience to see her as a forgettable pretty face rather than an actress of substance. Smith is one of the weak points, demonstrating feeble range while seeming generally out of place. Perhaps a stronger performance from him would have carried the film to loftier heights. Extra mention goes to George Wallace, who instigates a few chuckles by playing an outmatched but well-meaning policeman.
There are worse films than Shirin in Love, and there’s a little bit of heart behind this endeavor, but unless you’re looking for a quick, pick-me-up rom com, dedicate the hours to a stronger picture.
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