Dramatic Diplomacy

12.12.13

If The Peace Talks Were A Movie

Confused by the current frenzied round of Middle East diplomacy? Me too. Until I imagine it as a Hollywood movie.

Here’s my elevator pitch. Working title: A Foreign Affair. It’s a bit like When Harry Met Sally meets Knocked Up meets Dr Strangelove.

Doe-eyed but flint-hearted former Mossad lovely Tzipi (Meryl Streep) and chubby, eloquent but iron-minded Saeb (Danny DeVito) are neighbors and on-again, off-again friends/rivals. They are each happily married with their own families and there is no question of an affair—but that simmering tension provides a backdrop for the drama that follows. Saeb has threatened to leave the neighborhood before and has planted a For Sale notice in his front yard several times, but he keeps changing his mind at the last minute.

Along comes steel-jawed, helmet-haired, former war hero John (Clint Eastwood) and asks them to look after his love-child, Salaam, due in nine months. John will not be around much longer and so he must entrust the child to their safe-keeping. They each owe him big time for past favors and they cannot refuse his request.

Alas, neither Tzipi and Saeb, sadly, can have children of their own. This could be their one slim chance of parenthood. For their own reasons, they cannot afford to pass it up. There’s also a back story on each that we won’t go into—a violent past, lots of suffering, various disappointing father figures.

Forced into unexpected domesticity with each other, our heroes grapple with what this will mean for their relationship, their careers, their own life-partners and their reputations with the folks back home. They could make it work if they were left to themselves, but there are so many other walk-on characters threatening to mess it all up.

There’s the philandering, big-spending, cigar-chomping, wolfishly handsome Duke Benjamin (Chevy Chase) who wants Tzipi for himself, but only if she’ll let him drive the Ferrari. There’s the grey, bespectacled butler Mahmoud (Michael Caine) who acts like he’s superior to Saeb but is hopeless when it comes to picking out the right tie for him.

And there is the wise, distant figure of Barry (Jamie Foxx). He is John’s shadowy boss—part-professor, part-politician, part-prophet, part-suburban dad. He has only a couple of cameos but he seems somehow to have the power to change the whole world.

Then, at the end of the first trimester, John drops a bombshell: there is not one love-child, but two. Salaam will have a twin, Ayatollah.

The scans indicate that Ayatollah will be a mean child, bristling with rage, ready to break all of Salaam’s toys unless she plays the way he likes. But John is sure that he can nurture Ayatollah to bring out the best in him, if only Tzipi and Saeb will do their best for Salaam.

As the months pass, the going gets tough. Tzipi and Saeb argue over everything from the details of the childcare to the color of the wallpaper in the nursery to whether the infant will be vegetarian or a meat-eater. Meanwhile, John is having problems with the medical diagnosis on the other unborn child, whose behavior in the womb has the experts guessing—and not a little worried. Already in the womb, little Ayatollah is displaying worrisome signs. But John is convinced he can tame the fetus’s apparent destructive energies and channel them towards constructive ends.

When the time comes, what effect will these new-borns have on each other? Can our heroes Tzipi and Saeb keep it together? Is John endangering both infants by dividing his time between them? Is the movie-going public ready for the jaw-dropping finale? Will there be a Hollywood happy ending, or will both twins be still-born, causing the whole neighborhood to blow up in their faces...