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Originally published October 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 5, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Movie review

Gutsy Jewish-Kurdish romance goes after more than laughs

"David & Layla" wants so desperately to be the next "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" that it nearly derails itself as a rom-com with a refreshing...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

"David & Layla," with David Moscow, Shiva Rose, Callie Thorne, Peter Van Wagner, Polly Adams, Ed Chemaly, Anna George.

Written and directed by Jay Jonroy. 108 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, some language and brief drug material. Uptown.

"David & Layla" wants so desperately to be the next "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" that it nearly derails itself as a rom-com with a refreshing ethnic spin. Fortunately the train never jumps the tracks, and this eager-to-please comedy joins Seattle's own "Outsourced" as a worthwhile diversion with plenty to say about resolving conflict on an intimate scale.

Inspired by the real-life marriage between a Kurdish Muslim refugee and a Jewish New Yorker, the movie hits all the requisite plot points, some hopelessly contrived (like a first kiss disguised as the need for CPR) while others earn big, fat, non-Greek belly laughs.

David (David Moscow) is an agnostic Jew who hosts a Brooklyn public-access TV show called "Sex and Happiness," for which he conducts highly personal man-in-the-street interviews. He's got a Jewish fiancée (Callie Thorne) but is truly smitten with Layla (Shiva Rose), a smart, sexy Kurdish refugee for whom marriage is the best defense against imminent deportation.

You can pretty much guess the rest. But while writer-director Jay Jonroy (an Iraqi Kurdish exile with a tragic family history under Saddam Hussein's tyranny) fumbles with occasionally forced humor — including a terribly written infidelity scene that's played for slapstick and left unexplained — he's remarkably adept at exploring complex divisions between well-meaning but prejudiced families united by love.

It takes guts to mention U.S. abandonment of exiled Kurds (as when Layla tells David "we got saved from Saddam by the same people who supported him"), and this may explain why "David & Layla" is being self-distributed in a movie business that avoids controversy like the plague when it's not exploiting it for profit. But anyone can grasp the issues explored in Jonroy's comedy, and occasional missteps are easily forgiven when something new (along with a feast of great-looking food) is being brought to the table.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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