Movies

Persepolis & 27 Dresses

Persepolis & 27 Dresses featured image

by Marc Glassman.

Persepolis. Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud, directors. Marjane Satrapi, script based on her graphic book. Marc Jousset, Art Director. Animation: Pumpkin 3D & “Je suis bien content.” With the voices of: Chiarra Mastroianni (Marjane), Catherine Deneuve (Tadji, Marjane’s mother), Danielle Darrieux (Marjane’s grandmother), Simon Abkarian (Marjane’s father, Ebi), Francois Jerosme (Uncle Anoush)

27 Dresses. Anne Fletcher, director. Aline Brosh McKenna, script. Starring: Katherine Heigl (Jane), James Marsden (“Malcolm” Kevin Doyle), Edward Burns (George), Malin Akerman (Tess)

Persepolis.

Life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution was a hardly a bed of roses for a feisty young girl. In her bestselling non-fiction graphic novel Persepolis, now made into an animated film, Marjane Satropi vividly describes the restricted life she endured growing up under the tyrannical regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini. With a Communist uncle (quickly executed by the fundamentalists), a lovingly direct, foul-mouthed grandmother and liberal-minded parents, Marjane learned to measure the joys of home life against the fears and opportunities in the outside world. Moves to Austria, back to Iran and eventually to France, finished her adolescent “sentimental education,” giving Marjane a unique perspective on the despotic West and the religious East.

As a graphic novel—actually a series of memoirs—Persepolis became a worldwide hit. Satrapi mixed her naïve illustrative style with a sophisticated narrative, creating a compelling contrast between the black and white almost “cartoony” drawings and the irresistible story of a young woman coming of age in a terribly repressive environment. She and co-director Vincent Paronnaud have taken the same approach with the film, which uses old-fashioned animation techniques to craft Marjane’s emotional tale: expressionist for her anger and often unrequited dreams, neo-realistic to convey how she spent most of her days.

Marjane’s story is a complex one. Though the regime of the Ayatollah is brutal and terrifying, Tehran remains a place where young people can party and have fun—if they’re not caught. Iran, itself, is home for Marjane throughout Persepolis—still a warm environment, provided you’re indoors with family and friends.

The West, as represented though Austria, is not a paradise. Marjane can dress and act “freely,” but there isn’t a safety net in the society. If something goes wrong—if you’re betrayed and lose your sense of purpose—no one will automatically intervene on your behalf. Marjane finds out about the down side of “freedom” in Austria; it’s after a terrible time there that she returns to give Tehran one more try.

Inevitably, Iran doesn’t provide the answers for Marjane. France does. Persepolis is a beautifully made film, which raises many political and ethical issues while spinning a strong tale about one woman’s growth during difficult times. It’s a universal message—and I suspect that Persepolis as a film will become a strong niche hit.

27 Dresses

All hail Heigl! Well known for her performances in Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up, the blonde haired actress with a generous mouth and contemplative eyes is about to emerge as a star. Katherine Heigl is the only reason to see 27 Dresses, a fitfully intelligent, cliché ridden romantic comedy. The good news is that she is full value for your money: men and women will find her charming as Jane, the nice girl, who is “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”

What makes Heigl so appealing? She’s the girl next door—provided you were lucky enough to have a model as your neighbour. Heigl is beautiful but not threatening. In Knocked Up, Heigl makes you believe that she could fall in love with the immature, flabby but well-meaning nerd played by Canadian Seth Rogan. While her male lead in 27 Dresses is the conventionally handsome James Marsden, playing nuptials journalist Kevin Doyle, the script asks you to accept that Heigl has met no one despite being the maid of honour at—get this—27 weddings. The Bride of Frankenstein would have done better than Heigl’s supposedly plain Jane.

The trick is that the audience is in on the joke. Just as even boobs crazy males in the Monroe-Mansfield ‘50s secretly lusted after Audrey Hepburn, the modern Cineplex crowd isn’t averse to Heigl’s charms. That makes her lack of boyfriends in both Knocked Up and 27 Dresses so amusing. You know that the only reason she doesn’t have guys hanging around is that she’s really waiting for The One. Yep. Heigl is a romantic—and who doesn’t love that?

She’s also sexy, in an all-American way. In the cleverly written opening sequence in 27 Dresses, Heigl hires a taxi driver to take her back and forth to two weddings in one night, one in Brooklyn and the other in lower Manhattan. She’s the bridesmaid for both and the trick is that she must wear traditional Indian garb for the Brooklyn match and a standard North American dress for the one in the Lower East Side. Heigl has to change her dresses repeatedly in the taxi and her deal with the cabbie is that he loses $20 from the guaranteed $300 each time he looks at her changing. Of course, he’s down to $140 by the end of the evening—but we never see a thing. That would be showing off, the kind of thing that’s done in Europe, not in the repressed USA.

In both Knocked Up and 27 Dresses, Heigl only breaks down and has sex when she’s completely drunk. In Knocked Up, she’s celebrating a promotion at work and somehow ends up in bed with Rogan. In 27 Dresses’ more charming scene, Marsden and Heigl get drunk in a bar after nearly crashing a car during a rainstorm. They end up singing Elton John’s Benny and the Jets at the top of their lungs while dancing on top of the bar. Of course, they make love but the key scene is the morning after: Marsden comes back with coffees for them and a sleepy Heigl informs him, “I never do that. I must have been drunk.” To which he replies: “I know. You said that all night.”

So, what does Heigl do in both films? She works hard—as a TV host in Knocked Up and an assistant to a “green” clothing mogul in 27 Dresses. She’s a great friend to undeserving mean spirited sisters in both. Worse, in 27 Dresses, her sister (admittedly unknowingly) steals away the crush of her life, her boss. (Who is played by Edward Burns—what’s happened to his career?)

Which, I guess, leads up back to 27 Dresses’ plot. Turns out that bridesmaid Jane has a second secret crush on NY Journal reporter Malcolm Doyle who writes wonderful pieces about weddings. Of course, Malcolm is a pseudonym for Kevin Doyle, the cynical young man who becomes intrigued by Jane after spotting her cabbing it to two weddings in one night. The two spar while unworthy sister Tess and Jane’s boss George fall in love. Since the course of love hasn’t run smoothly since the Greeks invented theatre, it won’t be a surprise that a few “funny” rough passages ensue before a final wedding takes place, starring Jane—with her 27 bridesmaids in tow.

The big thing is: Katharine Heigl has arrived. Forget Grey’s Anatomy. We’ll be following Heigl’s anatomical cabarets in feature films for the next decade.

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