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"Irangeles": Will Romeo Get Circumcized for Love?
Willa Cather once insisted, "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." Sadly, not always with applaudable skill.
Poster of "Irangeles."
"Irangeles," billed with a bit too much bravado as “a Michael Keller film,” takes on the Romeo and Juliet trope yet again, but with a fascinating little twist. Yes, this 2003 movie, which is newly released on DVD as a “2008” production, has transformed Romeo into Kip, a beer-gurgling Kansan frat boy who moves to Los Angeles to become an actor. As for Juliet, she’s now Sherry Azizi (Carla Golian), the daughter of strictly kosher Persian-American Jews.
Now it is estimated that there are over 690 thousand Persian-Americans in the United States, the majority living in California, and many of those settled around L.A. According to one government study, this ethnic group is one of the smartest and wealthiest around. (http://www.farsinet.com/farsinet/iranian_americans.html) Add a little Judaism to the gene mix, and forget it. They’re untouchable.
But poor Kip wants to touch.
Filling the aching Kip/Romeo’s tights quite nicely is Dan Wells (http://www.danwells.com/), who has gone on from this role to quite a spirited television career, in addition to becoming a spokesperson for raw milk rights. Google Images will help explain Mr. Wells’ success. He has a disarming blond studliness with a smile that mocks his own external beauty at the same time it’s acknowledges, “I’m really hot, aren’t I?”
His Kip is completely believable as an innocent, transplanted Kansan, although I’m not speaking from too much experience. Other than Dorothy and Toto, I can’t think of any other Kansans I’ve ever interacted with.
Back to the plot: Before driving west, Kip is hugged by his dad (Fred Dekom), who waves and yells, “Say hello to all the gays and Jews for me!” (That is much nicer than saying “queers” and “kikes,” even though the message is similar.)
Well, Kip arrives in L.A., and after numerous frightening encounters with morally-wanting natives, he winds up with a Persian-Jewish roommate, Kambiz (Noah Knight), who plans to celebrate the Sabbath by bringing Kip home to his parents. (Yes, it’s not immediately clear that the new roomie is straight, but he is. He is. It’s harder to figure that out nowadays, isn’t it?)
At the shop, while Kambiz is paying for some kosher pastries, Kip runs into Sherry just as he’s holding up two large melons to his chest. It’s instant love, at least on his side. But will he ever meet this lovely, exotic woman again?
Indeed Kip does when he wanders into a Persian dance class a few days later where Sherry is the instructor. By this time, the lad has acquired an overtly gay agent, an acting teacher, a job selling diamonds, plus two acting auditions. During the first, Kip has to tell his kid brother, “A condom is sort an umbrella for your willie.” During the second, he has to make love to a bag of potato chips.
Shortly, thereafter he’s cast as, yes, Romeo in a very low-rent version of Romeo and Juliet. The director of this production is horrifically embodied by the actual director of "Irangeles", Mr. Keller, who actually acts far more unevenly than he writes a screenplay or directs. He’s so abysmal that when he attacks a young actor with the following line—“I have laid turds in Tijuana toilets with more acting ability than you" you wish he were addressing a mirror.
Anyway, while all this is occurring, Kip is wooing Sherry by hiring an Asian-American dressed up as a chicken to sing her love songs off-key. When that doesn’t work, he messengers her over gift-wrapped beef jerky, a decidedly trayf present for a nice Jewish girl.
Yet eventually, Kip’s persistence wins out. But will Sherry’s distraught parents be conquered, too? Mom upon learning that her daughter’s dating a gentile wishes the family could return to Iran. Dad wants to kill himself after stating, “I bet he’s not even circumcised.”
As for the ending, it’s as predictable as any grade-C comedy’s: Will the lead get the unkindest cut of all for his true love? You guess.
What makes "Irangeles" more than bearable, though, is its tiptoeing into a culture that is seldom spotlighted in cinema. The music by Andy and Shani is especially fine, too. And one musn’t forget the cast (especially Wells and Knight), that now and then rises far above the seesawing artistic qualities of what is known as a “Michael Keller film.”
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