See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bella

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Emotion trumps logic in Bella, a thin, day-in-the-life tale overstuffed with melodramatic grand gestures. Mexican director Alejandro Monteverde and his co-writer Patrick Million are so eager to offer their troubled characters redemption that they pile on the pain and then trigger a cathartic release. That manipulation has yielded results: This mediocre movie won the People's Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.

What saves it from becoming a sluggish muddle are heartfelt performances and a low-key style that keeps the film grounded, even when Monteverde tries to coat New York City, portrayed here as a multicultural wonderland, with a sheen of magical realism. (The only magic here is how two people can use a single Metrocard.) Bella doesn't seem amateurish as much as half-formed, a collection of impassioned narratives that never mesh into a cohesive whole.

José (Eduardo Verástegui), who's a chef in the Mexican restaurant owned by his demanding brother Manny (Manny Perez), is taciturn and nose-to-the-grindstone reliable, with a Christ-like countenance that includes a shaggy beard and the feeling that he's spent time wandering in the wilderness. (Perhaps naming him Jesús was too obvious even for Monteverde.)

He seems to have nothing to do with the slick-haired José seen in flashbacks, wearing sleek retro duds and pointy shoes, driving a vintage convertible, and smoking a huge cigar. (All visual cues to a different era, confusing since events take place only a few years before.)

Neither of these Josés offers a clue as to why the usually stalwart chef would suddenly walk out during the lunch rush to pursue Nina (Tammy Blanchard), the waitress Manny has just fired for tardiness, not realizing that she just learned she's pregnant. José, in his white uniform, and Nina, a WASPy Frida Kahlo in a colorful, traditional Mexican ensemble, look like refugees from an off-Broadway play, wandering the streets and quickly bonding.

They leave the city and visit the small beachside town where José's parents (Jaime Tirelli and Angelica Aragon) maintain the family home as a safe haven and lovingly tease their adult children. It's here that Monteverde unravels his family reconciliation agenda, a very pat set of solutions for deep-seated guilt and trauma.

This resolutely old-fashioned tearjerker tries to reach the heart by bypassing the head. Monteverde rewards the sacrifices made by his characters, but he shouldn't ask his audience to forgo a coherent story line for a good cry.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit