July 18, 2007
Nice Jewish boy in Brooklyn dumps domineering Jewish fiancée when he falls for lovely Kurdish Muslim girl. Parents and relatives on both sides are horrified, but are reconciled at raucous interfaith wedding.
That, in a thimble, is the plotline of David & Layla, the umpteenth updated version of Romeo and Juliet, or, if you will, Abie's Irish Rose. (Why is it almost always Jewish boy and shiksa and not Jewish girl and goy, but never mind.)
|Seated ON the bima of their shul, the angst-ridden Fine family considers the prospect of their nice Jewish boy's conversion to Islam.|
What saves the film from triteness is the loving insight it provides into the joys and sufferings of the Kurdish people. The Kurds, like another Near Eastern tribe whose name slips my mind, seem to have been handpicked by their deity for endless miseries, but defiantly preserve their humor and high spirits.
The main purveyor of high spirits is Layla, who moonlights as an exotic but chaste nightclub dancer, while awaiting deportation as an illegal immigrant. Portrayed by Shiva Rose, a smashing beauty of mixed Irish and Persian parentage, one wonders what she sees in the rather nebbishe David (David Moscow), but go figure love.
David's parents fall somewhat short of the Jewish ideal. Despite his many infirmities, father Mel pursues rather weird sexual adventures, at home and away. Mother Judith may be the last Jewish maternal stereotype who, when informed that a friend's son has an Oedipus complex, utters, "Oedipus, Schmodipus, as long as he loves his mother."
That one must date back to the time some Viennese wit told it to Sigmund Freud for the first time.
Of course, the path to the altar is not without obstacles. We won't talk about David's vasectomy, which he underwent at the urging of his ex-fiancée, but we have to face the sensitive issue of conversion,
Who of the two should convert to the other's faith? Layla makes the, I guess, sensible point that if she converts "I have to jump into a pool and follow 613 laws," while all David has to do is repeat once "Allah is God and Mohammed is his prophet."
Fortunately, since David has already been circumcised, that problem is out of the way.
All such niggling aside, if the goal of Jay Jonroy, the film's writer, director and producer, was to give Americans a glimpse into the lives of his fellow Kurds in a painless lesson, he has done the job.
Jonroy is a Kurdish refugee from northern Iraq, who fled the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein, some of whose atrocities are briefly depicted in the movie.
In their religion, Kurds practice a form of Islam lite, which Jonroy compares to Conservative/Reform Judaism vis-à-vis Orthodoxy.
In many other respects, judging from David & Layla, Kurds are not unlike Jews in their hospitality, love of food, vigorous wedding dancing, and various meshugas.
Scattered throughout the countries of the Near and Middle East, distrusted everywhere, some 35 million Kurds have longed for centuries to establish their own country, but it remains a far-off dream.