City Paper is not for tourists
First-time writer-director Jay Jonroy apparently believes that cross-cultural understanding and acceptance can be fostered with crotch jokes. Jonroy’s debut, David & Layla, is full of ’em. Painful vasectomies, hot tea in laps, erection gags, assaults on balls both accidental and vengeful—all, for some reason, are part of this insufferable story about the forbidden love between a New York Jew and a Kurdish Muslim. David (David Moscow) is the producer and host of a public-access talk show about sex and happens to be filming out on the street whenever the lovely Layla (Shiva Rose) walks by. He asks her, on camera, how often she fools around. She slaps him. Soon, based on no real reason the viewer is shown, they want to get married. Obstacles include David’s obnoxious fiancée, Abby (Callie Thorne), the Muslim doctor that Layla’s family is trying to set her up with so she can get her green card, and, of course, their religions. These aren’t really obstacles, however, as the first two disappear at Jonroy’s whim and the last issue is tussled over sitcom-style until everything ends happily. David & Layla is based on a real couple, but, well, who cares? There’s nothing witty, astute, or even likable about this latest version of two worlds romantically colliding. And for a film about breaking stereotypes, it’s packed with them, particularly in David’s family: Dad (Peter Van Wagner) is a cartoon of oy-yoy-yoy overreactions, Mom (Polly Adams) is perpetually verklempt and can’t even manage to get Layla’s name right (“Leah? La La?”) because it’s so, you know, foreign, and all that we know about David’s brother, Woody (Will Janowitz), is that he’s gay—and we can tell because of his fey renditions of Passover songs. Attempts at humor include David ingesting some E while sailing with Layla, which results in him slumping over the wheel and nearly crashing, and his pants splitting open while he’s fake-praying at a mosque. David & Layla is truly funny only when it tries to get political, however, whether it’s the couple’s forced, petulant arguments over troubles in the Middle East or footage of the bloodied victims of Saddam’s reign—with dolls, so clearly lifeless and plastic, standing in for actual children.
CORRECTION: Tricia Olszewski’s statement that dolls were used in a scene showing children killed during a 1988 gas attack in Halabja, Iraq, is incorrect. The film uses actual footage of the event.