Not that it's inflammatory or anything, but "Not Without My Daughter" makes you want to set off for Iran with an atomic rolling pin.
Sally Field is a naive American housewife who follows her husband to Iran in this infuriating thriller based on a true story. It's the kind of harrowing adventure that fits the former flying nun like a bad habit. Determined from her pert nose down to her tiny toes, she has a field day with this role. It's the feistiest.
Field is Betty Mahmoody, a happy middle-class homemaker who lives in Michigan with her Iranian-born husband, Moody (Alfred Molina), and their daughter, Mahtob (Sheila Rosenthal). Then one day in 1984 Moody says he wants to return to Iran, then Khomeini country, for a little family holiday. He swears on the Koran that he will do nothing to jeopardize their safety, that Iran is the Disneyland of the Gulf, that the check's in the mail and he'll still respect her in the morning. Or words to that effect.
Silly Betty reluctantly agrees and the little family is off to Tehran, where the heretofore Alda-esque Moody turns into an Islamic fanatic in less than two weeks under the influence of his family -- who claim to be direct descendants of Mohammed. The women are old bags and the men are abusive tyrants who stop Betty from leaving the country with her daughter. And as we know from the title, she ain't going without Mahtob.
Pretending to embrace her husband's faith, Betty eventually persuades the family to allow her enough freedom to go to the market, where she meets Houssein, one of the very few Iranians neither ranting nor drooling, and plans an escape. The antithesis of the contemptible Moody, Houssein and a couple of nomadic swashbucklers do little to balance the heavy-handed portrait of Tehran as the armpit of the universe, a reeking hole of religious fanaticism.
No doubt Betty Mahmoody, whose book is the basis for David W. Rintels's screenplay, is a brave soul who underwent horrific abuse. But the truth she shares is a battering. This real-life case of "Misery" sets yourteeth on edge, your blood boiling, your adrenaline surging with the subtlety of a World War II propaganda film.
It's a hell of a thing that happened to Betty, but you can't help thinking Betty should have known better in the first place.
Not Without My Daughter, at area theaters, is rated PG-13 for spouse abuse.