By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
If there are no lessons to be learned from Stolen Summer, it‘s because the surrounding sideshow -- from the carnies hawking the film’s wonders to the rube critics who‘ve already slapped down their nickel-plated approbation -- isn’t any different from those once staged by the likes of William Castle. Then as now, it‘s the sideshow with its under-seat buzzers, amazing fat man and phony, pumped-up excitement that is of greater importance, and loads more fun, too. Moviegoing is never only about the movies, and even less so during the arid season when the films themselves can seem incidental to the gloom they inspire. Which is as good a way as any to introduce Son of the Bride, a serviceable, occasionally agreeable film that, although superior to Stolen Summer in terms of craft, is no less calculating (and shameless) in its bid for our affection. Directed by Juan Jose Campanella, who wrote the script with Fernando Castets, the film is one of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, and has been touted in the mainstream media as an exemplar of the new Argentine cinema. Son of the Bride is certainly Argentine in location and co-financing, but from its tenacious sentimentalism to its pandering generic storytelling and America-friendly vibe, it‘s neither new nor a model of the reinvigorated national cinema that’s attracted so much recent international attention.
Restaurateur Rafael Belvedere (Ricardo Darin), one of those A-for-asshole personalities with a cell phone lodged in his ear and no time for his family, suffers a mild heart attack, then an awakening of conscience. The brush with death makes him a better father to his daughter and a better son to his parents, father Nino (Hector Alterio) and mother Nora (Norma Aleandro), but it also makes him less engaging and believable. Darin, whose looks and affect shift between Ray Romano cuddly and Chazz Palminteri scary, seems a curiously unsympathetic presence on which to hinge a midlife crisis, a characterization that paradoxically serves to hold our interest more than either his dialogue or his metamorphosis does. The squinty, unreadable half-smile Rafael wears before his heart attack is the sole unpredictable factor in a film in which the lead‘s girlfriend looks like a sitcom star and his best friend looks like Roberto Benigni. Once the character has risen from his sickbed, however, the smile widens and its mystery vaporizes, sucked into a great snot-filled squall of pop psychology. Although it’s better written and directed than the average Nora Ephron bagatelle, it‘s easy to imagine Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan slipping into a remake of Son of the Bride. That shouldn’t be held against Campanella and Castets, who have as much right to spin cliches as anyone in Hollywood. The problem is that the only thing remotely ”foreign“ here is the subtitles.
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