Movies to go or to go to

Movies to go or to go to

By Jim Spelman

By Jim Spelman

Freelance Writer

Tortilla Soup

Before I met my cinemaphile spouse, I rarely went to the flicks. It’s all different now. If I don’t get to the theater for a viewing, there’s usually only a short wait before I can rent the films I missed and watch them in the comfort of my own home.

Unfortunately, Rockford’s Kerasotes theaters ordinarily only show movies which attract enough people to make the concessions profitable. Read the showcase sections of Chicago papers, and you will see the vast number of interesting features that never hit our local screens.

One of those which I recently had the luck to watch at home is called Tortilla Soup, a low-key but uplifting comedy starring Hector Elizando as a loving, sometimes frustrated, widowed Latino father raising three beautiful adult daughters, and Raquel Welch as his anything-but-reluctant suitoress.

Hector plays Martin, a well known and respected chef who has two loves, his work and his children. The film opens on a pair of hands deftly preparing a succulent meal using brightly colored vegetables fresh from the garden. Someone instrumental in The screening of this story, as well as Senor Elizando himself, is obviously an aficionado of the culinary arts.

The meal being prepared in the first take turns out to be the family’s Sunday dinner, of which all members are expected to partake. They all do appear, and the resulting familial interactions are an introduction to the true-to-life humor which laces the film throughout.

For instance, the sacred Sunday dinner is interrupted by a phone call, and Dad Martin, whose sensitive taste buds are revered by his associates, rushes off to the restaurant to save a dessert which has been all but charred by an error in oven temperature. He creatively turns the seared remains into a delectable and attractive end-of-the-meal treat. He tells his crew, “We’ll call it Bel Mange.”

“What does that mean?” asks a symbiotic assistant chef.

“A beautiful mess,” responds Martin with a sly grin.

The dish is a hit, but of course!

The story moves on to watch the love lives of the three daughters ravel and unravel and ravel again. Interposed amid those tales is the desire of the three sisters to see their dad settle into his own romance. They see to it that Dad Martin is introduced to the grandmother of an eight-year-old girl who, after school, stays with Letty, Martin’s teacher daughter.

Who plays Grandma? You guessed it, Raquel Welch. A more voluptuous and cheeky grandmother I haven’t met! Her talent for hitting on widowers is vigorously and repeatedly exercised on Martin until one begins to feel a bit sorry for him. But, that’s all part of the plot, and the story really ends well, as a comedy should.

Monsters’ Ball eeee

Another unfortunate aspect of the Kerasotes monopoly is the fact that the “good” or “arty” movies are shown first at Colonial Village. And if a film doesn’t draw, no matter what its quality, it disappears from Rockford screens.

One recent attraction which has stayed at CV for quite a while is Monsters’ Ball, an intense and intriguing story about human relationships between parents and children, men and women, the right and the damned and the effect on them of authority, conscience, love and desire. It was panned by the Gannett critic but called the, “. . . best movie of the year,” by Roger Ebert, who gave it four stars.

The male lead is one of my favorites, Billy Bob Thornton, a truly talented actor, writer and director. Halle Berry plays the female protagonist. Her performance is worth the trip to the theater. She is not only a stunningly beautiful woman, she is one heck of an actress! If she wins the Oscar, she earned it.

The Register-Star calls the film, “A dark and brooding drama.”

That it is—purposefully. It is a haunting reminder for all of us who grew up with parents or other child rearers who, because of their own unaddressed fears and angers, physically or emotionally, sometimes physically and emotionally, abused the youngsters in their charge.

The plot developed slowly—sometimes it seemed to trudge. But, looking back at it, it becomes clear that, so the audience will be able to absorb every word and scene, the deliberate pace is an integral part of the director’s design.

The movie’s camera work evinces another intriguing facet of the director’s plan. Shadowy shots involving deep colors and lines of light seem to act like a net cast into the audience in order to bring it closer to, even meld it with, the characters on the screen.

Another point the work makes vividly is that having sex is not loving, but that loving and sex together can be exalting. Verna, the town prostitute, sells five or six minutes of her body to local men on a regular basis. As I watched, I wondered if men really do that, and what for? But the director expertly uses those scenes as a striking contrast to the heated encounters between characters who are deeply attracted to each other.

As the end of the film approached, I was still wondering—what was the result of the series of intense events and the emotions they caused going to be? The climax was a surprise for me. It is a four-star show. Ebert is right.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!