“America So Beautiful” muses on the dilemma of Iranian-Americans in the U.S. during the late ’70s, when the Hostage Crisis sparked widespread xenophobia. Pic’s general subject matter was given a more intimate and graceful treatment in last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival entry “Maryam.” This comparatively jumbled, unevenly paced item lacks the nuance or distinction to see life beyond the fest circuit.
Set in L.A. circa 1979, tale centers on Houshang (Iranian pop singer Mansour), who yearns to be the Iranian John Travolta. Skipping out on his chores at his uncle’s (Akbar Moazezi) Persian market, Houshang colludes with family friend Sahmi (Houshang Touzie) who promises him, in exchange for cash, unencumbered access to the local disco. But Sahmi reveals himself to be a dishonest character with criminal connections, leaving a disappointed Houshang to face rejection and racist taunts along with a carload of frustrated Iranian friends. Flaring tempers lead to a violent and bitter climax that shatters Houshang’s dreams of assimilation. Production and costume design — especially the absurdly iconic white on black disco suit — aptly capture the polyester look and feel of the late ’70s.