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'Son of the Bride'

Man finds what he's missing in 'Son of the Bride'

Friday, May 31, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Rafael Belvedere isn't quite ready to take the money, but running looks like an increasingly attractive option -- if he could find the time or the energy.

'Son Of The Bride'

RATING: R for language; subtitled.

STARRING: Ricardo Darin, Hector Alterio, Norma Aleandro, Eduardo Blanco.

DIRECTOR: Juan Jose Campanella.

WEB SITE: www.sonyclassics.com



He is the title character in "Son of the Bride," the Oscar-nominated film from Argentina now at the Harris Theater. A middle-aged man, Rafael (Ricardo Darin) runs his family's restaurant. More accurately, it runs him. Every ring of his cell phone brings the portent of bad news. A vendor is extorting a higher price. A delivery didn't come on time. One of the incompetent relatives he employs has screwed up again.

He's too busy to spend time with his pretty girlfriend, Nati (Natalia Verbeke), and too exhausted to sleep at night. He neglects his daughter, Vicky (Gimena Noble), which sets off his ex-wife, Sandra (Claudia Fontan). And he never finds time to visit his mother, Norma (Norma Aleandro), who has Alzheimer's disease.

But God has ways of telling us to slow down, and Rafael is forced to take enough time out to reassess his life. Maybe he will accept one of the many offers for the restaurant and just drop out of life by moving to Mexico and doing whatever.

Or maybe he will take the opportunity to reconnect with the people around him, a notion that is encouraged by the reappearance in his life of his childhood friend Juan Carlos (Eduardo Blanco), now an itinerant actor -- or maybe a glorified extra.

They spent much of their boyhood playing Zorro and Sgt. Garcia, while trying to escape being beaten up by the older kids. Now, Rafael is trying to escape getting beaten up by life. He's a successful man who can't enjoy it, an average guy caught up in the political and economic chaos afflicting Argentina.

And he has never really gotten out from under the shadow of his father, Nino (Hector Alterio), a man of great charm who remains so in love with his wife that he wants to marry her again, this time in a church as she always wanted, despite her illness.

"Son of the Bride," directed by Juan Jose Campanella, who co-wrote the screenplay with Fernando Castets, tells the story of a man rediscovering what is truly important and valuable, a quest that many of us can identify with. The problem is that Rafael spends most of his time reacting to a series of commonplace stressful events. Fortunately, actor Darin breathes life into the character with his darkly expressive face and frenzied weariness.

The most disappointing aspect of the film is Juan Carlos, who turns out to be a hyperactive fellow with little use for pragmatism -- it's no wonder he's an actor or something like it. Unfortunately, he comes off a little too much like Roberto Benigni, best taken in small doses, and ends up being more of a catalyst than a character.

But a transcendant moment occurs when Nino tells of coming to Argentina from Italy and opening the restaurant, doing all the cooking while Norma greeted the customers with a kind of magic. The sparkle in his eyes, the vividness of his account make it tangible in our minds, and it becomes obvious that he loves his wife every bit as much as he ever did, if not more.

Success is transitory, but true love never dies. It may sound like a cliche, but it is expressed with enough warmth and conviction to overcome the film's sometimes wobbly structure.

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