Living as a first-generation American yields interesting experiences. You’re often caught in a battle between contrasting cultures, trying to find your identity in either one or both of the cultures you’ve been raised in. Ideally, you would find a balance between the cultures, with your heritage and background giving context to the new philosophies and ideas you’re embracing, but sometimes it becomes difficult to find that balance. Sometimes you’re caught thriving in a new, adopted culture and other times you’re caught trying to appease the culture you’ve been raised with. No matter the case, this personality-forging journey is especially difficult when your new beliefs and opinions contrast with the traditional values your parents still hold.
Simple Wedding, directed and co-written by Sara Zandieh, stars Tara Grammy as Nousha, a young Iranian-American lawyer who spends her days fighting for human rights while spending her nights on blind dates set up by her parents. For her parents, starring Shohreh Aghdashloo as her mother and Houshang Touzie as her father, it’s incredibly important that Nousha gets married immediately because she’s reaching prime spousal age. However, as Nousha rejects all the basic, boring men thrown her way, she meets Alex (Christopher O’Shea) a bisexual artist, activist, and DJ who believes in all the same things she does. As Nousha and Alex fall in love, they face disapproval from Nousha’s parents as Alex isn’t the Muslim, engineer they’ve imagined Nousha will marry.
Every now and then a film comes around that’s all too familiar. It connects with you, it draws from similar experiences. As a child to Indonesian immigrants, Nousha’s interactions with her parents are all but foreign to me. Of course, there are some differences, but the familial pressure to appease cultural values fights hard against the social pressure to conform to progressive values. Nousha’s plight is relatable and appreciated, supplemented by hilarious comedy and heart-wrenching drama. Its humor and emotion anchor the thoughtful story with engaging acting. Simple Wedding is more than a cross-cultural dramedy, it’s an introspective study on the ways that familial love and romantic love flourish in and affect our lives. It’s fantastic.
A film this steeped in emotion and comedy requires incredible actors and Zandieh produces great performances from her stars. In particular, Grammy stands out as the conflicted Nousha, delivering the character with palpable depth, complex emotion, and a hilariously accurate Céline Dion impression. Meanwhile, O’Shea perfectly embodies the loving boyfriend-type with class, acting well through comfort and persistence as his world takes a sudden, new shift. Finally, Aghdashloo and Touzie tie the whole film together as the well-meaning, loving parents who only want the best for everyone. They embody worried yet forceful parents with overbearing emotion and cautious stoicism, perfectly demonstrating the yin and yang nature of many marriages.
Simple Wedding is thoughtfully engaging. Throughout the film, it manages to balance great moments of comedy with emotional moments of drama. The entire film feels unique and fresh. Many family dramas are ingrained in disingenuous, generic stories, but the cross-cultural approach to this film is refreshing and appreciated. It’s clear this story is more than a film to the creators. The film is steeped in passion and authenticity, calling for diverse audiences to interact with and experience their unique and unusual experiences.
Perfectly balanced, as all things should be, Simple Wedding masterfully blends the intricacies of cross-cultural identity and dating with joyous comedy and tender emotion. There are few films that feel this sincere. It’s an impassioned response to any personal culture war out there, entertaining along the way as it forces you to think about the way familial and cultural love impacts our personal and romantic lives.