"Marriage, Iranian Style" Review

By Kevin Thomas Los Angeles Times

"Marriage, Iranian Style" is a most effective comedy, full of warmth and affection, that at the same time is remarkably daring, considering the tenseness of U.S.-Iranian relations. It is old-fashioned entertainment, rich in familiar comical types, lush settings and locales, yet for all its humor has a timely subtext tinged with melancholy over East-West relations.

Shireen Sarpoulaki (Shila Khodadad) is the highly sheltered daughter of a wealthy carpet dealer (Dariush Arjmand) of a fine old Tehran family steeped in tradition. Arjmand's Hajj Ebrahim is a bearded bear of a man with a deep, booming voice and an authoritarian manner. His devoted wife, Akram (Fatemeh Goudarzi), has, with much deft cajoling and the help of her brother Saied (Saied Kangarini), persuaded him to allow Shireen to take a job at Saied's large travel agency.In walks David (Daniel Holmes), an American information technologist with a major U.S. firm, who takes one look at Shireen and is transfixed. Saied arranges a tour for David and his colleagues and selects his niece to serve as a guide because of her fluency in English. Her aghast father calls her on her cell phone almost hourly and even assigns his son to spy on her. But Shireen is attracted to David, an unassuming man who has become increasingly drawn to art rather than science and has developed a special interest in Persian culture.

In walks David (Daniel Holmes), an American information technologist with a major U.S. firm, who takes one look at Shireen and is transfixed. Saied arranges a tour for David and his colleagues and selects his niece to serve as a guide because of her fluency in English. Her aghast father calls her on her cell phone almost hourly and even assigns his son to spy on her. But Shireen is attracted to David, an unassuming man who has become increasingly drawn to art rather than science and has developed a special interest in Persian culture.

At first director Hassan Fathi and writer Minou Farshchi poke gentle fun at Hajj Ebrahim's overprotectiveness of his daughter and then do the same with his extreme paranoia toward David. "Marriage, Iranian Style" finds humor in just about every situation, yet in doing so reveals the dicey status of women in Iran, who live lives so subservient to men they become consumed with both pleasing them and outmaneuvering them. And for all its amusing exaggeration, Hajj Ebrahim's paranoia becomes a commentary on the gravity of the deep distrust between the U.S. and Iran. The filmmakers, however, do not forget they're making a comedy, and the film's serious undertow sets off the absurdity of so much of human behavior and belief.

Not surprisingly, Holmes is not an American but a Canadian. He is not a professional actor but has lived his role, having come to Iran, fallen in love with an Iranian woman and converted to Islam. Also not surprisingly, "Marriage, Iranian Style" was initially banned in Iran and reportedly was released only when Holmes' role was greatly reduced, which can only have had a deleterious effect on the film and its conciliatory spirit.

Originally Published August 4, 2006



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