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Passionada, 1 DVD, 105 minutes
Un homme d'affaires qui a réussi dans la vie s'installe dans un village de pêcheurs à New Bedford, dans le Massachusetts. Une veuve tombe amoureuse de lui, mais ce dernier garde en lui un étrange secret...
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Enter Charlie Beck (Jason Isaacs), card-counting gambler restricted from casinos all over the world, vacationing with his "retired" and respectable pals Lois and Danny Vargas (Theresa Russell, Seymour Cassells), who happens to catch a performance of Celia's, and is moved enough to want to express his admiration for her performance and artistry, and also wants to ask her out. In essence, Charlie begins to live "fado", wanting what he cannot have. Celia only has room in her heart for her beloved Joseph, her late husband. As an aside, Isaacs was not the initial male lead, who walked off the film without much notice, and the director and producer offered the part to Jason Isaacs, who had to finish making "Black Hawk Down", then hop a plane to New Bedford, learn his lines, and swap a dark character for the against-type role of Charlie. I think he did a fine job, and is actually quite funny. He's supposed to be a good-natured bit of a cad with no sense of dress. He pulls it off perfectly, honing that scuzzy personality, loud, tasteless, silly, no class, so that Celia is initially both amused and repulsed by his manner.
But love finds a way, and it comes in the person of Celia's headstrong and pretty daughter Vicky (Emmy Rossum, an unknown at the time, later to be Sean Penn's daughter in Mystic River, as well as the female lead in Phantom of the Opera), who is as thoroughly modern as her mama is cultural and old-fashioned. Now, the two of them really do look like mother and daughter, so this works out well in the film. And they have a great charisma that gets the movie through its sometimes cliched and stilted dialogue. (And yes, Portuguese girls and women DO say "yeah, yeah, yeah", though more like "Yuh, yuh, yuh") Also, they would NEVER call their grandmother "Nana", a big boo-boo for the filmmakers, who otherwise really did a good job getting the cultural stuff down. "Vovo" is grandmother, pronounced "voh-VOH". Underage Vicky has a penchant for gambling, unbeknownst to her straight-laced mother, and inadvertantly meets Charlie at a casino.
She meets him again after he has met Celia, and then the fun begins, for he is giving Celia quite a line about who he is and what he is all about, and Vicky knows exactly what he is. They have to work together, compromise, so that she gets what she wants, and Charlie has a chance to get what he wants.
If the dialogue is a bit stilted, or cliched, well, the scenery and the food scenes will steal your heart, and make you want to plot the quickest route to New Bedford, where there are extraordinary dining experiences, to be sure. The phantom gourmet in Boston is forever finding one well-kept dining secret after another in the coastal towns of Greater New Bedford. The dishes Celia prepares in the movie are authentic Portuguese recipies, and the camera loves this food more than it ever loved Brad Pitt.
OK, so love stories are a dime a dozen, but this one has class, in that each character really fits the part. The music comes on like another member of the cast, and sets the mood so perfectly. The scenery and landscapes, the festival and the food, the sunsets and the sandy beaches, all add to the romanticism in a way so few films ever achieve. And it's all real.
The banter and back and forth dialogue of Charlie and Vicky, and again of Charlie and Celia, are very funny, and I would caution viewers right off the bat to make sure the subtitles are on, as much is missed in some of the breathy interchanges, as well as the quick quips exchanged.
I could not give the film 5 stars, however, because I thought Cassells and Russell are good actors, and deserved better dialogue than they got stuck with. Russell's sultry voice and manner, and the couple's antics help save their roles, and the movie, too, but Cassells lines, especially, were almost embarrasingly all cliched.
All in all, a good movie to perk up your spirits, to settle down with if you are not in an overly-cognitive state of mind, and to rejeuvenate your belief that true love does happen more than once, and this feel-good film will set you in the right mood.
I live near New Bedford, though I believe this made me more critical of the film, as I would know whether they got something "right" or not. I can assure you that culturally, women in Celia's position would behave in a similar manner. The director did a terrific job in getting much of the culture of the Portuguese community onto the film.
Good chick flick. Beautiful lead lady, good singing voice.