Metro Weekly

Three Veils

Reel Affirmations 2011

Review by Will O’Bryan

Rating: starstar (2 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/15/2011, 2:30 PM
Feature presentation, $12 at Globe Theatre

A PERFECTLY FITTING summary statement of Three Veils might be, ”Oh, God.” After all, the movie gets pretty religious. Qurans will be kissed. Prayer mats will be placed. It’s also fitting, however, in that some moments might make you uncomfortable enough that the utterance is simply reflexive.

Writer-director Rolla Selbak opens her Los Angeles story with one of her three veils, Leila, played by the model-gorgeous Mercedes Masöhn. She is the pretty, good girl, soon to be wed in an arranged marriage. And she remains the good girl, even if she quizzically forgoes a surprise bachelorette party while finding time to run over to the home of the cute boy she barely knows for some sympathetic and tearful spooning.

As dull Leila’s story nearly comes to an end, we realize the gimmick: three veils, three women, and Leila’s co-characters, Nikki the wounded bad girl, and Amira the pious lesbian, are going to get just as much real estate. We get the backstories, the current dilemmas, the Middle Eastern culture. We get it all. And it’s an awfully big falafel to swallow.

Looking just at the story, we’re left wondering why a mother would entrust the uncle that molested her to care for her daughter for a summer, then be surprised when exactly what she expects will happen does. Or why the painfully closeted girl doesn’t get herself to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. It’s huge! If these are simply cultural differences, then this is not a film for non-Middle Eastern audiences. If there was an intention of explaining these characters’ motivations to ”Westerners,” Three Veils falls short.

It’s hard to care much for the two-dimensional pretty girl. The lesbian’s resolution seems simply sad. And bad girl Nikki really just needed some readily available family counseling.

Sheetal Sheth, as Nikki, also could’ve used a bit more inspiration. It’s hard not to laugh after she warns, ”You can’t mess up your life for a fuck-up like me.” It’s an old episode of Hotel and Morgan Fairchild is the prostitute screaming, ”I’m a trash can!”

When lesbian Amira (Angela Zahra) takes over, you can hear the direction in your head: ”Be blander! Angela, we need more bland.” It’s either that or, ”Cry! Big, heaping sobs.”

All in all, Three Veils comes across as Al Jazeera English meets Lifetime Television meets a Salvation Army pamphlet on the evils of demon liquor. If ever it’s retooled, following one character alone – not Leila – might help this ship float.

Three Veils
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Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.