Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Son of the Bride

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Rafael Belvedere is a 42-year-old stressed-out restaurateur in Buenos Aires with an ex-wife, a girlfriend and a young daughter, all of whom he tends to put on hold as his sundry business duties call — plus he has a kindly old father and a mother who's in a rest home suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Small wonder, then, that he suffers a heart attack, a decidedly mixed blessing — if ever a life needed a reflective pause, it's Rafael's.

Adding to the pressures of business is that his father has become convinced that a symbolic re-marriage to his wife — the elaborate church wedding that they never had — would be a wonderful gift for her in her declining years, even though she's so far gone she barely, if ever, recognizes who he is. Rafael is at first frustrated by his father's pursuance of this idea, but after the heart attack, with a chastened eye on the more meaningful things in life, he decides to go along, even to help out with the complicated arrangements.

Son of the Bride was an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film and, as is too often the case with such movies these days, there's an enervating strain of sentimentality that runs through it, guaranteeing that any rough questions bought up will sooner or later be smoothed over. In this case, the most egregious example of fudging reality is in the characterization of Rafael's mother, whose feisty out-of-it non sequiturs are supposed to be funny (a seemingly charming old lady who swears a lot for no apparent reason — ha-ha!). But in the long run the situation seems rather depressing, all the more so for not being adequately acknowledged by the characters in the film.

On the plus side, Rafael is played by Ricardo Darin, who was the bearded con man in Nine Queens, and an actor capable of winning our sympathy in an unforced manner. His now-grown-up childhood friend, Juan Carlos, is played by Eduardo Blanco, a natural sad sack who gives some nuance to his role of comic relief. Which makes it all watchable — but in the end it's still a movie for people whose feel-good buttons are easily pushed.

Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Friday through Sunday. Call 313-833-3237.

E-mail Sarah Klein, James Keith La Croix, Anita Schmaltz or Richard C. Walls at letters@metrotimes.com.

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