Friday, December 30, 2011

Home Video with Abe: A Better Life (Capsule Review)

A Better Life
Directed by Chris Weitz
Released June 24, 2011

Chris Weitz has an eclectic directorial resume, starting with “American Pie” and the Chris Rock comedy “Down to Earth,” highlighted by the Hugh Grant dramedy “About a Boy,” and then leading into the disappointing “The Golden Compass,” the Twilight film “New Moon,” and then this father-son immigration drama. What “A Better Life” has to offer is nothing exceptionally creative, presenting the story of a hard-working gardener, Carlos Galindo, trying to give his fourteen-year-old son Luis something to look forward to in his future. Luis’ interactions with local gangs and his father’s loss of his truck – which many have surely compared to the events of the classic Italian film “The Bicycle Thief” – make Carlos’ dream seem like an impossibility. Demian Bichir, most familiar to American audiences as high-powered and complicated villains Esteban Reyes from “Weeds” and Fidel Castro” in Steven Soderbergh’s saga “Che,” plays completely against type as the kind and honorable Carlos. He earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination for his performance, but, truth be told, he’s much more engaging and impressive in his less angelic roles. His onscreen son Luis is more irritating and ungrateful than anything else, and the main takeaway is that the film takes plenty of familiar and predictable turns, telling a story that might be powerful if it hadn’t been told so many times before in a similar and more effective manner.


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