It’d be easy to criticize the didacticism of Hanna Weg’s screenplay (adapted from Dalia Sofer’s novel), the awkwardness of Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek-Pinault’s lead performances (with Hayek-Pinault’s attempt at an Iranian accent especially laughable), and the generic bombast of Mark Isham’s score in Wayne Blair’s Septembers of Shiraz. But its issues cut much deeper than these surface inadequacies.
In post-revolutionary Iran, well-off Jewish couple Isaac (Brody) and Farnez (Hayek-Pinault) Amin become the target of resentful working-class revolutionaries. But while the film aims for humane evenhandedness, recognizing both Farnez’s lower-class condescension and the revolutionaries’ hypocrisy, the characters are so skin-deep that we never respond to them as people.
Thus, it’s difficult to fully buy in to Isaac’s publicly voiced awakening of class consciousness when he offers to give up all his assets to the revolutionary cause; it has been so little built up that the act seems more dictated by the script than Isaac’s own wishes. The fact that non-Iranians Brody and Hayek-Pinault command most of the attention while real Iranian actors like Shohreh Aghdashloo (playing Habibeh, a maid with increasing revolutionary sympathies) and Iranian-American Anthony Azizi (as Habibeh’s hotheaded son, Mehdi) are relegated to supporting roles increases a discomfiting cultural-imperialist subtext to this well-meaning enterprise.
Only when it decides to follow in the footsteps of Ben Affleck’s Argo and turn into an action thriller in its last act, though, does Septembers of Shiraz rise from dubious to truly offensive.
Septembers of Shiraz
Directed by Wayne Blair
Opens June 24, Cinema Village
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 23, 2016