“I dreamed of being the Iranian Martin Scorsese,” confesses Leila (Layla Mohammadi), the lead character in “The Persian Model,” Maryam Keshavarz’s semi-autobiographical reverie a few rising Iranian American director and her tumultuous household life.
The movie gained the viewers award at this 12 months’s Sundance Movie Competition, the second of Keshavarz’s films to take that prize. (Her first, the 2011 queer romance “Circumstance,” launched her profession — and bought her banned from Iran.)
The film opens at a fancy dress social gathering the place Leila sports activities a niqab over a pink bikini, her cultural contradictions on brazen show. Leila, reeling from a cut up together with her spouse, Elena (Mia Foo), has a one-night stand with Maximillian (Tom Byrne) and turns into pregnant. To her conservative dad and mom and eight brothers, Leila’s impending motherhood is one more of her outrageous scandals.
All through, Keshavarz wields her Scorsese influences. There are disorienting time-jumps, abrupt edits and heavy narration paired with photographs of Leila strutting by New York Metropolis. However Keshavarz samples different genres, too, from westerns and twee indies to go-for-broke slapstick. Maximillian, the would-be boyfriend, stammers adorably like he’s in a Hugh Grant rom-com and spends many of the movie in drag. (He’s enjoying the lead in a manufacturing of “Hedwig and the Offended Inch” on the time.)
The result’s a private movie that feels oddly impersonal. The tonal litter overwhelms Keshavarz’s genuinely fascinating story. On the web page, it might need sounded intelligent to have Leila disguise below a gorilla masks when she bumps into her ex-wife on the grocery retailer. Onscreen, nevertheless, the gag feels contrived and distracting.
The script most resembles a herky-jerky one-woman present, a string of reminiscences and cheeky, self-conscious declarations. Keshavarz has propped up her story line with refrains that don’t fairly coalesce. Her breakup with Elena is echoed by her description of the acrimony between Iran and America: “Like several nice romance, it led to a bitter divorce,” she says, an analogy she makes use of twice. Her father, Ali (Bijan Daneshmand), spends the film in a hospital awaiting a coronary heart transplant; her mom, Shireen (Niousha Noor), is deemed “heartless.”
Steadily, Keshavarz shifts her focus from Leila, basically her fictional self, to Shireen as a option to re-examine her personal mom, Azar Keshavarz, by grownup eyes. The sequences that star Shireen are implausible. The primary phase, set within the early Nineteen Nineties, charts her climb from uneducated immigrant housewife to actual property dynamo. The movie additionally goes again to the late ’60s when Shireen was a rural little one bride. We’re staggered by her journey to empowerment, a grueling stretch of which reveals her determined, alone and pregnant, driving a donkey. Kamand Shafieisabet, the exceptional teenage actor who portrays younger Shireen, continues to reside in Iran. She deserves a world highlight.
Keshavarz appears so awed by her mom’s resilience that she solely hesitantly sketches a through-line from that story to her personal. As a substitute, having shuffled by scores of concepts, Keshavarz ends the movie saluting all ladies combating to reside on their very own phrases — a wrestle raging in Iran and past.
The Persian Model
Rated R for language and sexual references. Working time: 1 hour 47 minutes. In theaters.