Passionate People

Argentina's biggest homegrown B.O. success so far this year, the agreeable if unsubtle "Passionate People" reunites two thesps from Juan Jose Campanella's successful "Son of the Bride," and features a good-looking young cast. However, pic ultimately proves that not all recent Argentinean romantic comedies are charming.

With:
With: Pablo Echarri, Nancy Duplaa, Natalia Verbeke, Hector Alterio, Pablo Rago, Camila Fiardi Mazzi.

Argentina’s biggest homegrown B.O. success so far this year, the agreeable if unsubtle “Passionate People” reunites two thesps from Juan Jose Campanella’s successful “Son of the Bride,” and features a good-looking young cast. However, pic ultimately proves that not all recent Argentinean romantic comedies are charming: over-schematic feel and slavish adherence to the commercial rule book conspire to keep the neat central idea from blossoming. Sales to Spanish-speaking and other selected territories are guaranteed on the back of its cast and local success, but pic is unlikely to break into any new markets. After preeming in Argentina early June, film opened in Spain at the end of August.

Air hostess Uma (Natalia Verbeke, from “Bride”), who lives with gay friend Roberto (Pablo Rago), is desperate to have a child. Not finding the right man, she decides to use artificial insemination. Her big-hearted friend, divorcee Lucia (Nancy Duplaa), suggests her own b.f., Uma’s friend Nico (Pablo Echarri), is the man for the job.

However, on the big night, Nico breaks the AI device, and he and Uma are forced to do the real thing to get her pregnant. As Lucia starts to suspect something is wrong in Denmark, Nico’s feelings for Uma intensify.

For a comedy, pic is distinctly short on laughs, apart from some decent one-liners and the odd well-played scene. There’s little here to hold the sentimentality in check, and the script’s political correctness and reaffirmation of conventional values increasingly grate.

Still, Verbeke as Uma is delightfully fresh and vibrant, generating interest in her essentially mindless character. However, Echarri, over whose chiseled phizog the lens lingers long and lovingly, overacts to distraction and fails to engage any sympathy. Other perfs are solid, particularly from vet Hector Alterio (“Bride”) as Nico’s father, Coco.

Lovingly designed, sumptuous interiors, plus location work in Patagonia and Spain all look fine, even if they lend the project an implausible, idealized air. Score is a mixture of syrupy orchestral work and overblown pop.

Passionate People

Argentina-Spain

Production: A Manga Films release (in Spain) of an Alquimia Cinema (Spain)/Telefe, Patagonik Film Group (Argentina) production, in association with Via Digital, Antena 3. (International sales: Alquimia Films, Madrid.) Produced by Carlos L. Mentasti. Executive producer, Francisco Ramos. Directed by Juan Jose Jusid. Screenplay, Alex Ferrara, Jusid, Marcela Guerty, Raul Becerra.

Crew: Camera (color), Porfidio "Popy" Enriquez; editor, Juan Carlos Macias; music, Juan Federico Jusid; art director, Margarita Jusid; sound (Dolby Digital), Jorge Stavropulos. Reviewed at Cine Paz, Madrid, Sept. 3, 2002. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Pablo Echarri, Nancy Duplaa, Natalia Verbeke, Hector Alterio, Pablo Rago, Camila Fiardi Mazzi.

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