Why would a successful call girl choose suicide, in such deliberate fashion no less? Why would a Catholic priest risk his career, and his life, to stop her, without even knowing who she is? Despite such an unconvincing premise, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie’s indie pace, the encounters between characters, the small jokes (often at the expense of the Catholic Church), and the laid-back, very honest lead performance by Jeremy Sisto. The Minneapolis setting, in the end, neither helped nor hurt, but it got me (any many others) into the theater on a Thursday afternoon, the right time and place for the small pleasures this film afforded.
Francis Ford Coppola channels Almodovar, but doesn’t quite capture the magic. The setting in La Boca in Buenos Aires is wonderful, as is the Penelope Cruz stand-in, Maribel Verdu. In fact, the black-and-white triangle of Verdu, the young Bennie, and the overly intense Vincent Gallo is the movie’s Pinteresque strength. The flashbacks in contrasting color are less satisfactory: they tease us with partial disclosures, in a way that makes no sense, unless you grant Coppola a magic realism license because of his film’s locale. By the end, the movie had dragged on too long, and traded in its early, eerie power for sitcom-level melodrama.
You don’t go to a Warhol exhibition expecting to see a Vermeer or a Rembrandt, but you don’t expect to find only a Jeff Koons, either. Quentin Tarantino obviously has all the techniques of moviemaking at his disposal, but he failed to engage me emotionally or intellectually, and for every gripping scene there was a plot inconsistency that left me puzzled or, worse, annoyed. Casting the Marx Bros. as a Nazi-scalping squad was repulsive, but casting Brad Pitt as their leader was just a mistake. If Tarantino wants to play in his cinematic fantasyland, fine, but I’d just as soon he, and Roberto Benigni, leave the Holocaust out of it.
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