I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
I can’t sleep until you get married.” So says Ziba Husseini (the ever spectacular Shohreh Aghdashloo: Star Trek Beyond, Rosewater) to her daughter, Nousha (Tara Grammy). Now, Nousha is not a youngster; she is, in fact, a successful lawyer in Los Angeles, an adult woman who knows her own mind and her own needs… and nowhere in there exists any thought or desire to get married. Certainly not to any of the nice (read: dull and conservative) Iranian men her parents — there’s also dad, Reza (Houshang Touzie: Argo) — keep trying to arrange for her. (The way she scares off the prospective grooms and their parents in hello-nice-to-meet-you-now-let’s-get-married get-togethers is snarkily hilarious.)
But now Nousha is living with artist, deejay, and utter delight Alex Talbot (Christopher O’Shea: Patriots Day), and when her parents find out, they are mortified. They can just about deal with him not being Iranian and not being Muslim. But cohabiting without benefit of wedlock? Unacceptable. Quick nuptials must be organized. Ziba is suddenly in her glory, Reza only slightly less so: their only daughter is getting married!
Call it My (Not So) Tiny Little Persian Wedding. Of course Sara Zandieh’s thoroughly charming feature debut — she wrote it with Stephanie Wu — deserves to stand on its own, but a comparison with My Big Fat Greek Wedding is inevitable, not least because this movie is from the same producers and everyone is playing up the connection. That comparison isn’t actually any bad thing: both movies are full of life, celebrating human universals of family and love, and embracing the differences that make the world so interesting and so much fun. (Some of the Persian touches being deployed for the wedding are as funny and overblown as they are poignant, touchstones of immigrants, as Nousha’s parents are, trying to retain a flavor of home in their new life.) It’s a wonderful reminder, much needed in our angry, insular times, that the melting pot is one of the best aspects of American culture… and it would be amazing if this movie could be even half as successful as that earlier one.
The movie’s feminist chops are terrific, too, as Nousha drives herself a little crazy trying to balance what she wants and needs out of romance with what her more conservative parents, and the less forgiving world they come from, imagine for her. Bucking expectations is never easy… but she loves her parents, and this sneakily wise movie finds a way for Nousha to navigate her difficult path, though it is not without bumps along the way. And some things that other films might have cast as cringeworthy — like Alex’s divorced mom, Maggie (Rita Wilson: Gloria Bell, Dawn Patrol), crushing on Nousha’s handsome uncle, Saman (Maz Jobrani: The Interpreter, 13 Going on 30), who has exotically flown in from Tehran — are handled with a lot more aplomb than the rom-com genre has led us to expect, especially given some of the other over-the-top bits of humor the film indulges in. (Those bits are pretty shockingly feminist as well.)
Smart and spritely, A Simple Wedding is a real treat, one that makes a real effort to find crosscultural common ground, and so it feels very welcome right now.
A Simple Wedding was the Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ Movie of the Week for February 7th. Read the comments from AWFJ members — including me — on why the film deserves this honor.