One could accuse Argentinian director Daniel Burman’s latest comedy of being forced and artificial, but the concept of “All In” willfully incorporates these effects. When a middle-aged man encounters an old flame who ditched him, he determines to rewrite their teenage romance; luckily, songwriter-turned-actor Jorge Drexler and the marvelously fed-up and flustered Valeria Bertuccelli make the plot’s various flaws and flukes believable, if not especially well integrated. The film’s various components — sex, Judaism, personal integrity and poker — never fully mesh, though not for lack of trying. Burman’s loyal fans may ante up, but others will fold long before the denouement.
Burman introduces his characters separately, indeed continents apart. In Buenos Aires, divorced, distracted Uriel Cohen (Drexler) tends to his two kids, runs a money-changing business and plays poker online, all more or less simultaneously. Gloria (Bertuccelli), living in Europe, buries her father there and returns to her native Argentina, leaving her goateed Francophone b.f. (Olivier Ubertalli) to follow. In the city of Rosario, she visits her divorced mom (stage and screen diva Norma Aleandro, pitch-perfect), a culture maven who doesn’t allow their reunion to compromise her focus on a literary radio program.
Uriel, in town for a vasectomy and a poker tournament, runs into Gloria, prompting them both to reminisce about the past; Uriel in particular is anxious to discover why she left him without a word. Gloria explains that although their sex life was excellent, she did not share his exclusive fascination with motel rooms; she wanted a boyfriend who would see movies with her, buy her chocolates, go to parties with her or simply hold her in public. Uriel thereupon follows Gloria’s teenage agenda scrupulously, and initially platonically, and soon everything is hunky-dory in and out of bed.
Unfortunately, Uriel has lied to Gloria about what he does for a living, leading to endlessly convoluted complications involving goldfish, rabbinical rock groups and concerts featuring Uriel’s 10-year-old son (Lucciano Pizzicchini) in full Hassidic regalia on electric guitar.
After Burman’s recent darker fiction films (“Empty Nest,” “Brother and Sister”) and curiously cabalistic docu “36 Righteous Men,” “All In” reps his return to the light fare that proved so popular at home and abroad, particularly with Jewish auds. But whereas his prior work was convincingly fleshed out and incorporated into vibrant milieus, he relies excessively here on glitz and schmaltz, though the helmer’s sheer willpower proves forceful enough that the film’s ersatz trappings take on lives of their own.