The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Shirin in Love

In a way, I almost feel bad for criticizing Shirin in Love. This is intended to be nothing more than a sweet, innocuous, feel-good romantic comedy. But, man, did it ever aggravate me. Rom-coms are the deadest of all cinematic genres right now; there are so many lazy, awful ones, and very few worthy ones. Filmmakers frequently mistake the assembling of conventions for actual meaning, leaving audiences with one movie after another hitting the exact same notes. Despite the switch of having an Iranian-American lead character, there's nothing new here, but there certainly is plenty that's old.

Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland) plays Shirin, an aspiring writer engaged to a plastic surgeon named Mike (Maz Jobrani). We know she's not fully in love with him, because she barely seems to care when she loses her engagement ring. One night at a party, Shirin gets drunk and ends up passed out in the car of a stranger named William (Riley Smith). He takes her to a hotel and cares for her. After sobering up, Shirin is assigned to interview a reclusive author for her mother's magazine. She gets lost trying to find the author's remote house and ends up seeking shelter at the home of Rachel (Amy Madigan). Guess who Rachel turns out to be. Good, now guess who her son turns out to be. You with me? The screenplay concocts a shamelessly manipulative reason for Shirin to be stuck there so that she and William can become attracted to each other. Then the obligatory things happen to pull them apart, so that the plot can wind its way toward one of those against-all-odds finales that reek of bad screenwriting more than of real life.

Writer/director Ramin Niami has no clue whatsoever how to portray two people falling in love, and so he simply falls back on every tired old rom-com cliché imaginable. You name it and it's here. There is literally nothing in Shirin in Love that you haven't seen a million times before. You know every step this movie will make long before it actually takes any of them. And the way those cliches are assembled is sloppy. Niami doesn't craft a story that engages our emotions, he haphazardly strings together a series of scenes that don't always fit, and certainly don't convince us that Shirin and William care about each other. The end result is an empty shell of a movie that goes nowhere, invokes no warm feelings, and accomplishes nothing.

The film also has a terminal case of the cutesies, as in the way Shirin keeps talking her way out of traffic tickets by helping a cop with his manuscript, or the way William sits in a lighthouse all day. When it's not straining to be cute, the film is actually kind of mean. One supporting character turns into a heinous villain in the third act (largely because the director can think of no other way to resolve the central plot dilemma), while our heroine does something we're supposed to root for, even though it's essentially an act of cruelty to someone else. The feel-good ending subsequently doesn't feel so good.

The only bright spot in the whole movie is Nazanin Boniadi, who is charming, attractive, and clearly talented. We like her, even if we don't necessarily like the character. That Shirin in Love is at all watchable is due to Boniadi. Here is an actress who deserves so much more than the robotic, uninspired movie in which she's been cast.

( 1/2 out of four)

Shirin in Love is unrated, but contains mild sexual situations and language. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.

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