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  Bella

Starring: Eduardo Verástegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manny Perez, Ramon Rodriguez
Directed by: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
Produced by:
Sean Wolfington, Eduardo Verástegui, Denise Pinckley, Leo Severino
Written by: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, Patrick Million, Leo Severino
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

 

     Who would’ve guessed that Bella, a sweet little tale about the love developed between New York chef Jose (Eduardo Verástegui) and waitress Nina (Tammy Blanchard), would turn into one of 2007’s most controversial cinematic offerings? After the film surprisingly took home the Audience Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, its promotion-campaign became nonexistent. (I passed up an opportunity to see it back in January, figuring that it wouldn’t ever get anywhere.) By a miracle, Roadside Attractions decided to put the movie out into select theatres to much success, marketing it towards the Latino demographic that its characters belong to. The mainstream liberal media got a hold of the story, saw the film, and, all of a sudden, decided to dub it “the anti-abortion movie.” Ardent abortion-rights groups blasted Bella for purporting that adoption was a superior and more moral method for dealing with unwanted unborn children than abortion.

     Yes, it’s true: Blanchard’s pregnant, soon-to-be single-mom Nina decides against having an abortion after realizing the practice’s severity when confiding in the strictly-opposed Jose. But to call Bella a right-wing, Christian lesson in morality is a ridiculous claim that far-left critics should be embarrassed to have made. This is a movie about characters and the choices that they make, not a heavy-handed political lecture. Should I, a conservative who would like nothing more than to see Roe v. Wade overturned, have disliked Cristian Mungiu’s masterful 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days on the basis that one of its characters had an abortion? Of course not. I don’t oppose the notion that a movie can be criticized for its faulty political ideology—Michael Moore’s “documentaries” are examples of instances in which I have done this—but Bella hardly wishes to make ideological assertions on any government-related topic, let alone abortion.

     That all being said, I wish I could claim that Bella was a better movie than it is. It is just as uninspired as it is apolitical. In fact, there were times when I was watching the film that I wished that it was the staunchly pro-life essay that its opposition has claimed it to be. That picture would have been more interesting than this one is. As Jose and Nina meander around Manhattan and visit Jose’s parents for dinner in the suburbs, both struggling to cope with Nina’s newfound unemployment at the hand of Jose’s boss of a brother (Manny Perez), their conversation feels natural but unremarkable. Bella’s characters are used for two-dimensional, melodramatic purposes by co-writer/director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, who merely wishes to shake an emotional response out of easily-affected audience-members whenever plot-epiphanies are thrust upon them. Thankfully, leads Verástegui and Blanchard are good enough in their roles that their performances ensure that the movie’s situations never seem forced or stiff, always keeping Bella tolerable if stock.

 

     “I wanted to make a movie I could take my grandmother to,” Verástegui proclaimed on a recent episode of Bill O’Reilly’s The Factor, in which he defended the film against its growing opposition. He and Monteverde have succeeded in doing this with Bella, but whether his grandmother will actually enjoy the movie is questionable. If she’s a sap who easily falls for the manipulation of cinematic soap-operas, then perhaps she will leave the theatre fulfilled and uplifted. If not, then I’m sure she will come out appreciative of her grandson’s gifted acting abilities, but totally disappointed in the script and direction’s apparent lack of creativity.

 

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 12.4.2007

Screened on: 11.21.2007 at the Edwards San Marcos 18 in San Marcos, CA.

 

Bella is rated PG-13 and runs 91 minutes.


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