Review: ‘The Son of the Bride’

Hector Alterio, Natalia Verbeke

A 42-year-old Buenos Aires workaholic discovers family means more than his restaurant business in superb contempo comedy "The Son of the Bride." Unflaggingly genial and universally funny pic is already generating favorable word of mouth on twin strengths of Montreal competish jury's Special Grand Prix and kudos as best Latin American film of the fest.

A 42-year-old Buenos Aires workaholic discovers family means more than his restaurant business in superb contempo comedy “The Son of the Bride.” Unflaggingly genial and universally funny pic is already generating favorable word of mouth on twin strengths of Montreal competish jury’s Special Grand Prix and kudos as best Latin American film of the fest. Wedding bells will ring in cinema cathedrals worldwide, with whirlwind honeymoons and long and happy lives on the tube and in homevid.

Managing the restaurant started by his father, Nino (Hector Alterio), has ground Rafael Belvedere (Ricardo Darin)down to a neurotic nub. Wife Sandra (Claudia Fontan) left him a long time ago, he hardly knows his teenage daughter Vicky (Gimena Nobile), g.f. Naty (Natalia Verbeke) routinely finds him on the couch in the middle of the night watching “El Zorro” reruns on TV, and he hasn’t made time to drop by nursing home of his mother, Norma (Norma Aleandro), who has Alzheimer’s disease, in more than a year.

So when Nino finally gets Rafael to visit and then announces he wants to remarry Norma in the church service they never had, it’s the first in an escalating series of events that provokes change, including a heart attack, the sale of the eatery and a rougher road to the altar than anyone anticipated.

“Not having these problems is the greatest problem of all,” Rafael proclaims desperately to Naty in one of the freshest declarations of love in recent romantic comedy.

Cast is aces down the line. Alterio and Aleandro, reunited 17 years after 1984 Oscar winner “The Official Story,” ignite the screen with more chemistry than most couples half their ages, while Darin has the dry, slightly bewildered timing and quirky leading-man appeal of Jeff Goldblum. Eduardo Blanco gets the most off-the-wall moments as flaky friend Juan Carlos; masquerading as a priest, he begins the climactic nuptials with the first few words of the Bible itself before shrugging and saying, “We could go on like this…”

Pic sparkles with inventive wit and is strewn with smart one-liners that spoof everyone from Michael Jackson to South American soccer star Maradona; it will play anywhere. “Did Maxwell Smart marry Agent 99?” Ricardo asks when confronted with Dad’s plans in one of many jokey tube references (well, yes, he did), while someone says of the high-strung restaurateur, “I open Freud’s complete works and the index describes you.”

Even the church gets into the act: “You can’t haggle with God,” says a cheerfully larcenous priest as the wedding bills mount. Best gag –visual and verbal — involves a magically mysterious personage mentioned in the same breath as Bill Gates and Albert Einstein; pic is mischievous enough to withhold the punchline until well into closing credits.

Credit director Juan Jose Campanella and longtime collaborator Fernando Castets for bringing storytelling snap of latter’s Stateside cable work (including “Remember WENN” and “Upright Citizens Brigade”) and universally understandable feelings of loneliness and desperation to what feels like a story rife with regional in-joke humor. Tech work is glossy and solid, with Buenos Aires coming across once again — as it does in recent boomlet of Argentine pics — as a sophisticated, picturesque urban metropolis.

The Son of the Bride

Argentina-Spain

Production

A Pol-ka/Patagonik/Jempsa/Tornasol Films production. (International sales: Pol-ka, Buenos Aires.) Produced by Adrian Sur, Fernando Blanco, Pablo Bossi, Jorge Estrada Mora, Gerardo Herrero, Mariela Besuievsky. Executive producer, Juan Pablo Galli. Directed by Juan Jose Campanella. Screenplay, Fernando Castets, Campanella.

Crew

Camera (color), Daniel Shulman; editor, Camilo Antolini; music, Angel Illaramendi; production designer, Juan; art director, Mercedes Alfonsin; costume designer, Vestuarista; sound (Dolby Digital/THX), Carlos Abbate, Jose Luis Diaz Ouzande; assistant director, Fabiana Tiscornia. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (competing), Aug. 30, 2001. Running time: 124 MIN.

With

Rafael Belvedere - Ricardo Darin Nino Belvedere - Hector Alterio Norma Belvedere - Norma Aleandro Juan Carlos - Eduardo Blanco Naty - Natalia Verbeke Vicky - Gimena Nobile Sandra - Claudia Fontan Nacho - David Masajnik Francesco - Atilio Pozzobon Daniel - Salo Pasik
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