Jon Stewart’s debut as writer-director almost works, and it’s not
quite good, but it’s certainly better than a rainy day flick. Choosing to
tackle the weighty subject of journalist Maziar Bahari (an excellent Gael
Garcia Bernal) and his capture and torture at the hands of the Iranian
government after the 2009 elections, Stewart hasn’t mastered the shifts in tone
for cinema the way he has for The Daily
Rosewater swings uneasily back and forth between hard drama, silly comedy,
social commentary and even fantasy (a few scenes depict Bahari’s early life
appearing on the sides of buildings as he walks past them, as if the buildings
are movie screens). Bernal brings it back to center, and there’s a wonderful
(and terrifying) performance by Kim Bodnia as the so-called specialist who
tortures and cajoles Bahari.
But the tone is off, though there are good moments. For example,
Bahari, past the point of breaking, realizes the actions against him are a
farce, and so he begins telling his captors how New Jersey is the capital of
erotic massage. It’s funny, and it happens during a lull in the prison scenes.
Where Stewart goes next will be worth watching; Rosewater is a decent
Bernal, Bodnia, and Shohreh Aghdashloo
Santa Fe Reporter
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