"...everything that Schnabel does is so conventional and contrived..."
Before Night Falls is a quotidian biopic of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas that tells an overview of his rise and fall and oppressed life.We are reared all the way from his impoverished tot-hood, sitting around naked and the progressive years as he briefly is sexually interest in women as a teen, and then the continuing chronicles of growing up, discovering his writing talent, the pursuit of that, in addition to the pursuit of his homosexuality.
Things take a rough turn when some kids steal his stuff, and when they are reported, the homophobic government is easily tricked into believing the kids’ claim that Arenas molested them. He is then temporarily imprisoned, escapes, and is on the lam for awhile, until being caught again. Arenas ends up in the United States for a short spell before succumbing to the AIDS virus he was carrying.
Julian Schnabel’s movie does little to explore Arenas’ poetry, but more so his flagrant homosexuality and those that Arenas aquainted himself with. We get a glimpse of the government’s intolerance of such, but everything that Schnabel does is so conventional and contrived. He hopes for a snow-ball effect of building interest, but for those unfamiliar with Arenas’ work such as myself, it failed to interest me to learn anything outside of the movie.
Javier Bardem portrays the unflattering role of Arenas, and he does well with it, but it is clear that the performance is being over-extolled. The other actors are generally decent, but not particularly worth mention. The cameos are another story; Sean Penn turns up for an unrecognizable bit, and Johnny Depp also appears for two cameos –one as a drag queen named Bon Bon, and then Lieutenant Victor. The dual-cameo is actually confusing for the simple reason that both roles are pretty much back-to-back, so once Bon Bon has helped Arenas, it would be a stretch for it to have been a guise for the Lieutenant to catch him. Regardless, Depp is enjoyable and even cute as the transvestite, but flounders, not only in the size of the uniform, but in the cameo role of the lieutenant.Final Verdict: B-.