Review: In ‘Shah Bob,’ an Iranian Jewish screenwriter’s dreams get lost in L.A.

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Before the opening credits, “Shah Bob” flashes the legend, “This is a work of fiction. It’s not about you.”

That’s a funny come-on, though a complete statement would have added, “It’s all about me.”

The writer-director, Babak Shokrian, has made an erratic autobiographical film about juggling artistic ambitions and family expectations in L.A.’s close-knit Iranian Jewish community.

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To stay afloat, the would-be screenwriter Bob (Reza Sixo Safai) takes care of problems in his father’s real-estate business, whether that means strong-arming a snooty British tenant for back rent, or advising a young, pretty cat lady that her litter box hastens mold growth in her bathroom.

Bob is too much of an existential will o’ the wisp to anchor Shokrian’s mad scramble of observational humor, volatile melodrama, whimsical vignettes and splashy meta-farce. Safai is more persuasive as a hedonistic bachelor and explosive enforcer than an ardent cineaste or the proper suitor of a conventional, coddled pharmacist who wants to be sure he’ll keep kosher.

Parviz Sayyad plays Pop with an earthy, layered panache that’s hard to resist.

Instead of writing about a gay Iranian activist in Germany, Bob’s pal says he should write about experiences that are “hilarious and true,” like pulling dead fish from a runaway tenant’s bathtub. Hilarious and true? Even after seeing the film, you have to take his word for it.


“Shah Bob”

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills