Dom Hemingway

April 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir
Directed by: Richard Shepard (“The Matador”)
Written by: Richard Shepard (“The Matador”)

Opening the film with a 5-minute soliloquy about how “exquisite” a specific part of his anatomy is, two-time Oscar nominated actor Jude Law (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”) paints the perfect portrait of his title character in “Dom Hemingway,” a prickly dark comedy that gives Law an opportunity to display his full range and take on a personality that would easily have swallowed up a less talented actor.

Doing what he did for Pierce Brosnan in his 2005 film “The Matador,” director Richard Shepard roughs up the edges of his lead actor and gives Law plenty of ammunition to bring the vulgar, vain and oftentimes livid Dom to life. Why is Dom like this, you ask? Dom just wants what he is owed. After spending 12 years in prison, a sentence that would’ve probably been reduced had he ratted out his boss Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir), Dom, a professional safecracker, is ready to collect. Reconnecting with his old crime partner Dickey (Richard E. Grant), Dom’s plans are wrecked after a near-death experience, which spurs Dom to seek out his estranged daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) and make amends.

Ripped from the pages of a screenplay like 1996’s “Trainspotting,” 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or 2000’s “Snatch,” the character of Dom Hemingway is one we’ve seen before and might even be considered cliché to some who have had their fill of sly, Guy Ritchie-esque UK criminals. But this is Law’s show and he does enough with Shepard’s dialogue-driven script to keep things interesting for the players even though storyline about fathers and daughters is lost in all the shady, backroom dealings. Shepard’s narrative loses steam when Dom and his big mouth aren’t front and center, but the Dom in “Dom Hemingway” is far too big of a character to pass over. It’s one of Law’s best performances of his career.

A Better Life

July 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Demián Bichir, José Julián, Joaquín Cosio
Directed by: Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”)
Written by: Eric Eason (“Manito”)

It might be a Mexican-American version of the classic 1948 Italian neorealist film “Bicycle Thieves,” but “A Better Life” could not have come at a more appropriate time, as immigration policy advocates continue to plead with the feds to rule on the constitutionality of a raft of new immigration laws being implemented in a variety of states. The film also comes on the heels of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist José Antonio Vargas’s startling and nervy revelation of his undocumented status in an essay he wrote for the The New York Times.

No matter where you stand on the subject, “A Better Life” offers an honest and deeply moving depiction of a Mexican immigrant’s struggle to provide for his son and raise him well enough to never have to follow the same difficult path he chose. While the themes have been confronted before (it’s comparable to, but less melodramatic than, “Under the Same Moon,” and isn’t paced as gradually as the locally produced 2007 drama “August Evening”), “A Better Life” has its own distinct voice and a tender stroke of humanity that keeps it from being lumped together with any overstated political message.

In a nuanced and award-worthy performance reminiscent of Independent Spirit nominee Pedro Castañeda in “August Evening” and Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor,” Mexican actor Demián Bichir (“Che”) embodies a father not only desperate to find a lifeline as a day laborer (his truck and landscaping tools have been stolen), but to also reach his teenage son on a level of emotional understanding and mutual respect.

The stakes are high in “A Better Life” and Bichir matches the film’s tormented tone with a portrayal of a man overcome by both fear and faith. It’s the latter, however, that encourages him to fight for the things that are most important to him no matter what may stand in the way.

Demián Bichir – A Better Life

July 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Mexico City-born actor Demián Bichir laughs a bit as he gives his analysis on the current state of U.S. immigration legislation and the suggestion by some people that the government should find a way to send 11 million undocumented Mexicans back across the border.

“Realistically, I don’t know how that could ever happen,” Bichir, 47, told me via phone during an exclusive interview about his new immigrant-inspired drama “A Better Life.” “Immigrants are here. They exist. They have houses. They work. It’s something you can’t ignore. They are here to make their lives happier. Maybe it’s time we start accepting them as part of this country.”

It’s a message Bichir, best known by mainstream American audiences for his recurring role in the Showtime series “Weeds,” says is the pulse of “A Better Life.” The film follows the story of Mexican gardener Carlos Galindo (Bichir) and his teenage son Luis (José Julián) as they try to stay afloat in East L.A. amid unpredictable work circumstances and toxic neighborhood influences.

During our interview, Bichir talked about taking to the streets of L.A. during pre-production to talk to real immigrants about their experiences pursing the American Dream and if he thinks a film like “A Better Life” can change peoples’ minds on immigration issues.

What resonated with you about this story when you read the script?

The first thing that struck me when I read the script was how real everything was – the characters, situations, locations, and the father-son relationship. There weren’t any gimmicks or tricks. It was a straightforward role. Chris wanted to be sure we were going to take a natural approach to everything.

I thought the realism of the characters and scenarios were the most powerful parts of the film.

Yeah, Chris is a really precise director. He wanted to be sure that we were going to have a natural delivery and a real approach to the whole story. You need a good director in order to help you deliver your best. That’s what Chris Weitz is.

Immigration is an issue we see a lot in films. What makes “A Better Life” stand out from the rest?

I think one of the great things about this story is that we talk about the real problem that immigration issue – the separation of the families. This is a story of father and a son. This is a universal story. A father would do anything in his power to overcome any obstacles in order to give his son a better life. We also talk about this community of workers that are undocumented and work really hard in this country. They all have a house. They all exist. It’s something you can’t ignore. They are here to make their lives easier and better and happier.

Part of your research on this film was to go out into L.A. and talk to real day laborers. What did you learn about them?

All of them have a heart. The fact is that these immigrants are good people. What we need now is to give them a face and a name. We need to know who they are. They’re the people who are taking care of our babies, cooking our food, parking our cars, and working in our gardens. That is part of the debate that is going on every day.

Do you think a film like “A Better Life” can help change the way people think about immigration issues?

As an actor you are always looking for this type of script and character. You don’t find these kinds of scripts very often. If we’re lucky enough, this story is going to change a lot of things in our society. I believe in the power of cinema and moviemaking and that a single film can open minds and touch hearts. I hope we can have more of these human powerful stories so everyone can get a different view about the problems. People are going to look at this film and see things that are going on every day. If that change someone’s view, all the better.