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‘Shirin in Love’: Rom-com tropes spoil a potentially clever idea


Sideshow Releasing presents a film written and directed by Ramin Niami. Running time: 104 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at local theaters.

“Shirin in Love” is a bland romantic comedy set in the Iranian-American community in Los Angeles. Nazanin Boniadi (“Homeland”) is the likable title character who’s caught up in relationship hijinks that go from one predictable scene to the next.

There’s a glint of a clever idea here, but writer-director Ramin Niami’s reliance on tired rom-com tropes only serve to drag down the film, which plays out like a Harlequin romance. Plus each twist in the plot is telegraphed so far in advance, nothing is left to the imagination.

A human rights lawyer who for some reason has jettisoned that career (it’s never explained), Shirin is instead working for her overbearing mother Maryam (Anita Khalatbari), the owner of a Beverly Hills style magazine. Trying her hand as a journalist, she’s assigned to write a profile of a reclusive Northern California author (Amy Madigan).

Shirin is unhappily engaged to a successful plastic surgeon (Maz Jobrani) and has a Meet Cute with a handsome young man, William (Riley Smith), at a L.A. party. He just happens to be the son of the author she’s tracking down, but she doesn’t know that until she’s already on good terms with his mother.

Mom starts to play matchmaker and a romance blossoms. He lives and writes in a lighthouse nearby, and the couple takes long walks framed by gorgeous ocean views.

But on the home front, Shirin’s mother isn’t above lying to prevent her daughter from calling off the marriage. Shirin’s father, a character who must have been inspired by Mr. Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice,” gives advice, and sparks fly in many directions before the inevitable copacetic ending.

Boniadi is an appealing young actress and was memorable as a conflicted CIA analyst last season on “Homeland.” But as Shirin she seems lost in the maze of Niami’s sentimental screenplay, which is, emotionally, all over the place.

“Shirin in Love” comes to life during a few moments of ethnic flavor (one wishes there were more) and in Shirin’s dealings with her frenemy, a cop (played with wit by George Wallace) who is also a wannabe writer. But these moments are quickly overwhelmed by the rest of the tired and predictable plot, which in the end has only rare moments of romance and humor.

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