People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
Drafthouse Films has a history of releasing exciting, interesting films from directors we’ve never heard of. I’m watching this for two things: the Drafthouse seal of approval and the one, the only Martin Starr.
Amira & Sam is a charming, at times clunky, indie-rom-dram-com that looks past the tropes and cliches of modern day Hollywood romance pics, to dig just slightly deeper into the current state of America. Sam (Martin Starr) is a military veteran (and stand-up fellow as the film tells us over and over again) who’s unemployed and a little lost. Amira (Dina Shihabi) is a spunky, Muslim woman who lives with her uncle and, makes money by selling DVDs of shitty movies on the street, and struggles to maintain her traditions while pushing against them at every turn. Through a handful of fairly believable circumstances, the two meet, and then are thrust into each other’s lives where events occur, love blossoms, and so on and so forth. Like the title predicts, Amira & Sam is at its very best when the film is strictly about Amira and Sam. Martin Starr is an underrated and under-used actor who’s able to fill the role of Sam with a sort of stoned melancholy, punctuated by bursts of goofy humor. His Sam, though it’s overly hammered upon us time and time again, is believably good-natured, an American soldier who’s returned to a world he just doesn’t understand anymore. Dina Shihabi is nothing to shake a stick at. She manages to express a hard-edged, emotional wall, but illuminates enough of the cracks that the character comes off as an agreeable mix of feistiness, idealism and adorable cuteness. The slow unveiling of their enjoyment, and then love of each other is so sweet and tastefully done, you never really want any thing else to happen. Yet, this is a movie, so there’s a cluttering of this sweetness with a sub-plot about Wall Street and Amira’s legal issues and Sam’s family. It doesn’t detract from the film, because you keep wanting to see how these two are going to interact in new situations, but it could’ve been leaner, and more focused, and ultimately a better movie, if director Sean Mullin had just let his two leads strut their impressive stuff. If anything, the moments with Amira and Sam raise the film above some of the tired genre tropes, but in doing so, reflect on the presence and quality of them.
Give Martin Starr more roles!
The film will be on VOD and in theatres in Austin on January 30.