Sunday, December 14, 2014

*NEW* Romance Through the Ages

Elsa & Fred (Michael Radford, 2014) * * ½
Widowed Fred Barcroft (Academy Award-winner Christopher Plummer) is a grumpy, anti-social old man.  Elsa Hayes (Academy Award-winner Shirley MacLaine) is an unpredictable, energetic woman with a penchant for embellishing the truth and dreaming of being Anita Eckberg in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita."  Of course, this turns out to be a match made in Heaven.  After a bit of prying and thawing, Fred is bouncing around happily in love, but comes to wonder how much he can trust his new flame.  With a veteran supporting cast that includes Academy Award-winner Marcia Gay Harden, Oscar-nominee George Segal, and Emmy Award-winner Scott Bakula, you'd think this might be something special.  Alas, even in the capable hands of another Oscar-nominee, director Michael Radford, this is a 
pleasant-but-unremarkable diversion.  It may have been better to release this as a cable TV movie.

The Way He Looks (Daniel Ribeiro, 2014) * * * ½
Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) and his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) spend their afternoons wondering if and when they will ever be kissed by a special someone. Leo worries especially, because he is blind and doesn't know if that would hurt his chance at a normal relationship. When a new kid named Gabriel (Fabio Audi) arrives at school, he joins the two friends and takes over some of the help with walking Leo home in the afternoons. One night, after a drinking party, Gabriel swiftly kisses Leo, and he's not sure if it was a true kiss or just the drinking. Soon the three friends are at odds with one another, until they can resolve their feelings.
This is a sweet coming-of-age tale, based on a 2011 short entitled "I Don't Want to Go Back Alone (Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho)." While they both center on the changing nature of the trio's friendship, this expansion revises much of Leo's personal struggles. In the short, he was more dependent, while here he defiantly wants to explore a life without so many restraints, particularly from his protective parents. The performances are warm and the characters likable. A really solid tale about growing up and finding love. [Official Selection of Brazil for entry in the Academy Awards Foreign Language category this year, it is in Portuguese with subtitles]

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