23 December 2014 | azcoppen
40/60 for just far too long, for a film that doesn't know what it is
My entire raison d'etre for watching this was Saye, having had her picture coincidentally flick on a corner of my screen earlier in the evening and disturb a fantastic bottle of Chilean red. If it's convinced me of anything, it's that i need to scour Los Angeles for an trace of her, in order to propose marriage immediately simply on account of how intoxicated i am with her beauty. That, and to enforce the production company's site overhaul into the 21st century. I am of course now, an entirely biased reviewer.
That said, it's a very odd film. As a director, it's frustrating: you want to take the potential of what's on offer and realise it to its full potential; but i'm not sure what that is as it's a syncretic mish-mash of ideas that are trying to go somewhere, but never arrive. One thing's for sure: Persian screen presence is unbeatable; there is a goldmine of undiscovered drama in Iranian expat culture and its pseudo-turbulent clash with what is now known as Tehrangeles. You just simply cannot ignore a Persian when they're on screen: that mystical allure is a trump card.
Firstly, 2hrs is far, far too long: the editor should have pointed that one out, as the director should have cleaned up the script itself. There's at least an hour of redundant material in there. There's probably a story in there somewhere, with a powerful punch; but it's not evident at all. It could be a sick suspense black widow chiller, but there's too much compassion. It could be a vulnerable biopic, but it's too cold. It could be a multicultural document, but it's gritty and americanised. It could have depth, but it doesn't connect with anything more meaningful. The best word for it is schizophrenic, but that indicates an intensity it doesn't have. The only words that come to mind are "unfocused", "diluted" and "meandering".
It's not bad, but it's not good. The violence approaches visceral (particularly the rape and domestic assaults), and the historical character development starts in an interesting place, only to never actually connect the person who is the focus of the film - it just doesn't join up. The photography is "urban" bleached well, only to be inconsistent for most of the piece. The acting is horrendously wooden in places, yet authentic and moving for specific parts: it's just confusing. Character motivations aren't clear, the pacing is lacklustre, and you're left wondering if it's a case of talented actors being stuck in a bad film, or a good film with bad actors. I suspect the direction is heavily to blame, as it has very little. I also suspect too much collaboration is to blame, from the lack of a singular vision or message. "Mediocre" doesn't do it justice - you can't hate it, you probably won't like it, so it ends up so bland that you can't really rate it. A highly unusual type of scenario.
Is it a film about Iran and it's attitude to women? The intoxicating and twisted dynamics of dysfunction and/or domestic abuse? Is there a Machiavellian conspiracy or moral that was meant to draw you in? I have no idea. I doubt any of the production staff know either. What i do know is i did manage to get through that bottle of Chilean red quite nicely, and wasn't any the wiser, other than that i should somehow spend more dreamy screen time with Saye, when i probably should be engaging with the film itself - which isn't a good sign of professionalism by any standard.
This piece needs a second chance: a re-write, a paced story that viciously twists and has a conspiracy at the centre of it, some tough talk to the actors, and a bit of a sick tone to turn the knife and give it a painful edge - heading to a solid theme, message, and moral.
But then again, that would make it an entirely different film.
TL;DR Idiot watches film because he wants to marry the girl in real life, suggests re-writing the film which he doesn't much about anyway. Take review with a shovel of salt.