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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 15.56%
Just Average: 20%
Pretty Crappy: 15.56%
Sucks: 2.22%

2 reviews, 33 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Too Sincere For Its Own Good"
2 stars

The posters for “Bella” hype the fact that it won the Audience Choice award at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, the very same prize as such other acclaimed works as “Crouching Tiger,” “Amelie” and “Whale Rider.” Having seen the film, I am dumbfounded as to how such a drab and innocuous work could have possibly inspired such viewer affection–either these people couldn’t get into the screenings of “Little Children” and “Volver” or Toronto is a hotbed for people eager to see turgid melodramas that combine somnambulistic pacing, heavy-handed moralizing, dull people coming to terms with thing and soccer.

The film stars Eduardo Verastegui as Jose, a gifted athlete whose dreams of soccer greatness were shattered years ago in a tragedy that is shown to us in a series of gradually unfolding flashbacks designed to pump up the melodramatic aspects. Now he works as a cook in a restaurant run by his greedy and self-centered brother (Manny Perez) and spends most of his time staring soulfully into the distance, no doubt praying that no one from the health board will come in and order him to shave off his Jesus beard if he is working in food preparation. One day, one of the waitresses at the restaurant, Nina (Tammy Blanchard), turns up late for work again and is immediately fired by Manny. On an impulse, Jose bails on Manny and goes off to follow her and discovers that not only is she late, she is late late. Over the course of one very long day and night, Jose escorts her to an abortion clinic–which she naturally flees in horror–gets her a new job at a better restaurant, takes her to his parents’ house for a big family dinner and eventually gets around to explaining his own personal trauma–a moment that comes approximately an hour after everyone else has figured it out for themselves.

“Bella” is a film with its heart the right place but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it isn’t a very good movie in the long run. Unlike a film like “Before Sunrise,” which also featured a couple of people getting to know each other over the course of one long day, the two characters here just aren’t very interesting–their past traumas aren’t particularly traumatic (especially when it becomes clear that Jose is virtually blameless for his particular trauma) and their future decisions aren’t exactly shrouded with mystery. (If you walk into this film convinced that it will end with Nina returning to the abortion clinic to go through with the procedure, I can assure you know that you have walked into the wrong movie.) Perhaps realizing that the central storyline was a little thin, the film also includes a few additional subplots but they are either distracting (Manny’s kitchen crisis in the wake of Jose’s departure) or abandoned as soon as they are introduced (we learn in the beginning that the soccer team Jose would have been on will be visiting the restaurant but once we learn this, we never see or hear anything about them again.) Then there is the ending, a bit of film that probably sounded nice and noble in theory but which only raises more questions than it answers and is too treacly to be believed.

Under normal circumstances, I try to bend over backwards to be nice to low-budget works along these lines, even if I don’t like particularly like them–why act snarky when the filmmakers are clearly trying to tell a sincere story despite the lack of cinematic craftsmanship. However, as “Bella” plodded along, even the goodwill that I usually try to keep in reserve for low-budget indies with their hearts in the right place began to erode and towards the end, I began having the potentially irreverent thought that the entire purpose of this movie was to show a group of Mexicans with nothing better to do with their lives than to help convince a strange white woman to consider adoption. In the end, “Bella” is a well-meaning film that nevertheless turns out to be little more than an extended After-School Special involving lessons that presumably won’t come as a surprise to anyone watching it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15092&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/26/07 04:37:35
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/12/16 Katrina Weiss Delivered a message without being too heavy-handed. 5 stars
1/26/10 jmm Review was a little harsh but I some what agree. Story was beautiful though. 4 stars
1/07/09 Rachel i really liked this. =] 4 stars
1/26/08 Ry good film 4 stars
12/12/07 William Goss About as maudlin a melodrama can get without actually disturbing any heartstrings. 3 stars
11/14/07 Elizabeth Enjoyed the performances and it is not quite the cliche you might expect. 4 stars
11/04/07 Kristin Reale I love the pro-life theme, but I must admit that the story line had some holes. 4 stars
11/03/07 Laura V. Beautifully produced, acted & directed. Substantial and powerful storyline 5 stars
11/03/07 mb long, heavy-handed message--right-wingnuts are out in force w/ pos reviews: don't believe 1 stars
10/31/07 harry Wonderful film. I loved it 5 stars
10/26/07 Alano I liked it. I got caught up in it early and never lost interest. 4 stars
10/26/07 Smokindok On the surface, ordinary, but actually a wonderfully detailed Christ allegory. 5 stars
10/26/07 Ashley Ferguson Amazing!! 5 stars
9/13/07 Shirley Some powerful emotional scenes, but writing, narrative flow and character are weak. 3 stars
6/28/07 David it is the best movie i have ever seen.. a standing ovation at our screening 5 stars
5/29/07 Melissa Wow! The Film touches your heart and leaves a lasting impression upon its constant beating 5 stars
10/02/06 Tanya I give it a standing ovation as did the rest of the audience I sreened it w in Toronto. 4 stars
9/28/06 AdamAnt Sentimental and formulaic as a telenovela. Never deserved to win. 2 stars
9/19/06 AW Amazing. . .the kind of film that stays with you 5 stars
9/19/06 Jackie Lemaire very good 5 stars
9/17/06 denny just average, shocked whe it won, so many others better 3 stars
9/17/06 Eduardo García Giménez Una de las mejores películas que vi en los últimos años 5 stars
9/17/06 RS Fantastic film making. Won Toronto, Oscars next! 5 stars
9/16/06 ryan It is one of those rare movies that you will never forget and tell people they have to see 5 stars
9/16/06 Daniel Morello Una lección de Vida y Esperanza 5 stars
9/14/06 elaine piaff OSCAR 2007! 5 stars
9/14/06 tamara excelente 5 stars
9/13/06 lisa wilson SUCH a GREAT movie....great acting and amazing directing 5 stars
9/12/06 John Jakubczyk wonderful film, touching, deep 5 stars
9/12/06 Jason Jones Beutiful Story, the acting is stunning, the birth of a great director 5 stars
9/11/06 JSB Life affirming! The filmaker really makes you think about certain choices we all make. 5 stars
9/08/06 Tracey Eyster BEST film I've seen in YEARS!!! 5 stars
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  26-Oct-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-May-2008



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