×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘In Search of the American Dream’

Director Baldemar Rodriguez tries to deal with the thorny issue of immigration, but his film isn't up to the test.

With:

Shaina Sandoval, Lupe Casares, Baldemar Rodriguez, Jeremy Becerra, Josephine John, Irma Infante, Ramon Ayala, Jose Rios, Leonor Follis. (English, Spanish dialogue)

Painfully sincere but hopelessly amateurish, “In Search of the American Dream” is a long and technically ragged indie about Hispanic siblings driven to extremes after their undocumented parents are arrested during a raid by immigrations agents. Multihyphenate Baldemar Rodriguez obviously wants to earn points for attempting to deal with thorny moral and legal issues — specifically, the dilemmas facing American-born children of illegal immigrants. But for all its good intentions, the pic proves unworthy of its subject matter. Limited theatrical runs will lead to home-screen exposure, then oblivion.

After their parents are nabbed while seeking fake documentation, mechanic David Martinez (Rodriguez), his teen sister Angelica (Shaina Sandoval) and their three younger siblings become fugitives to avoid being separated by child welfare authorities. Since David, like his mom and dad, isn’t a legal citizen, he opts to hit the road with his U.S.-born brothers and sisters, driving his clunker car from Houston, with only the vaguest notion of a final destination.

Even as Angelica pouts over being separated from her Anglo boyfriend, David strives to put on a happy face and convince the younger children that they’re on a “vacation.” But the road trip takes a turn for the worse when, during a traffic stop on a back road, David tussles with, and inadvertently wounds, a trigger-happy highway patrol officer.

Directing from his own lumpy, overloaded screenplay, Rodriguez occasionally recalls the desperate journeys taken by Depression Era outlaws in dramas such as “They Live by Night,” and the fatalistic scenarios of film noir. But his best efforts are repeatedly hobbled by slack pacing, flat dialogue and inability to sustain a consistent tone.

Late in the story, when things seem especially bleak, Rodriguez actually tries to wring laughs from Angelica’s impulsive attempt to rob a drug store clerk at gunpoint. And then he treats the hold-up as cause for riotous celebration — complete with upbeat musical accompaniment — in the getaway car. At this point, some audience members may be forgiven for shouting rude things at the screen.

The acting ranges from barely adequate to laughably stiff, while production values are non pro.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'In Search of the American Dream'

Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, Sept. 22, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 142 MIN. 

Production:

An Adelante Pictures release of an Adelante Prods. presentation in association with Definition Prods. of a Baldemar Rodriguez and Gregg Angel Rangel production. Produced by Baldemar Rodriguez. Executive producers, Gregg Angel Rangel, Baldemar Rodriguez Sr. Co-producers, Jackie Gil, Connie Hill, Elma Barrera.

Crew:

Directed, written, edited by Baldemar Rodriguez. Camera (color), Gregg Angel Rangel; music, Penka Kouneva; music supervisors, Patrick Arn, Randy Caballero, Hugo Guerrero; production designers, Odra Trevino, Aubrey Harding; sound, Eduardo Morquecho; associate producers, Rolando Guajardo, Frank Morales, Juan Gutierrez, Andy Valadez; casting, Michelle Fitzgerald. 

With:

Shaina Sandoval, Lupe Casares, Baldemar Rodriguez, Jeremy Becerra, Josephine John, Irma Infante, Ramon Ayala, Jose Rios, Leonor Follis. (English, Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

  • Running Against the Wind

    Young Africans' Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

    Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations. The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content