Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bella (2007)

At its start, Bella hints at predictability but then makes some surprising choices. I wasn't wowed by it but it's a character-driven story with little action but lots of heart.

The movie centers around two wounded people. Jose (Eduardo Verastegui) is a "Mexirican" (of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent) who was about to sign a multi-million dollar soccer contract with a Madrid soccer club when a tragic incident occurs. Now, he's an accomplished but empty chef at his brother's restaurant in NYC. Nina (Tammy Blanchard who looks like a Latin Julia Roberts) finds out she's pregnant just before getting fired from her waitressing job at Jose's brother's place. Jose has had it with his brother's Draconian ways and runs off after Nina. The two embark on a day-long date where they talk, share their pain and get to know each other. The movie revolves around the impact of family on our lives and what we become and how whether negative or positive these experiences, we are left to cooperate in the same world to work through it. Although I wasn't wowed by this one, I can't sully the effort. With its indie spirit, it presents rich and interesting details that kept me through to the end.

Themes: friendship, car accident, abortion, mother-daughter relationship, brother-brother relationship

Director: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Minutes: 90 minutes

Scale: 3.25

Rails & Ties (2007)

I found this one doing a search for Kevin Bacon movies on Netflix. When it opens, you meet a brooding and gloomy Tom Stark (Kevin Bacon) showing up to work at a train man. The foreshadowing is thick and sticky in the first scene. Tom has just learned that wife Megan Stark (Marcia Gay Harden) has cancer and Tom's boss urges him to take time off but Tom insists on his run (uh-oh). What happens next???

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

Davey Danner (Miles Heizer) is an 11 year old who's been playing mommy to his own single mother (Bonnie Root) who is struggling with depression and drinking. Something is wrong with her but you don't get time to figure it out because she's popping some pills and pushing them on Davey who has pretends to swallow but then spits them out. Under the guise of "going to watch the train," Davey and his mom drive to the train and while Davey, who possesses a great love of trains, is yammering away about the train that goes from Simi Valley to Seattle (side note: I wished this really existed) and you hear the oncoming train alarms. Davey's mother who is quickly going from drowsy to comatose from the pills drives the car onto the tracks, positioning it directly in the path of the oncoming train. Davey tries to extricate her from the car until at the very last minute, unsuccessful, he jumps out of the way and his mother is killed.

The film continues as Tom is left in the aftermath trying to keep his job and his guilt at bay, Davey seeks out Tom and develops a relationship with both Tom and Megan, while dealing with his own struggles. You learn about Tom and Megan's together-but-separate relationship and the difficulties that caused this distance. This Miles Heizer is an unbelievable actor. This little powerkid emotes and is so darn likeable--tears were shed, many and during several scenes. Kevin Bacon starts off as a shell of a man, not so likeable, and metamorphasizes into a different man--showing off his acting chops. Marcia Gay Harden is subdued as the bridge between the two male leads.

Themes: suicide, loss of parent, fatherless boys, wife-husband relationships, trains

Director: Alison Eastwood (daughter of Clint Eastwood in her directorial debut)

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  98 minutes

Scale: 4.5