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Casa de los Babys

Discussion in 'Movies' started by SteveGon, Apr 23, 2004.

  1. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    I'm sure there was a thread on this movie once upon a time but the search function turned up nothing...

    Casa de los Babys is good, solid John Sayles; if there's one caveat, it's that I wish it'd been longer.

    A group of disparate women converge on a hotel in a poor Latin American country. Most of them are unable to bear children and are desperate to adopt. Adoptions being a lengthy and trying process in the States, they hope things will be smoother in this impoverished country where babies are seemingly a dime a dozen. But red tape is the same everywhere and they wait, wait, wait. This gives director/writer Sayles the opportunity to indulge in his usual rambling character studies as he drifts from one woman to the next, divulging their pasts as well as their hopes for the future.

    Along the way we also get to glimpse the lives of some of the natives. A young boy roams the streets stealing whatever he can and selling the stolen items to the rich American tourists. An older man, more educated than others of his kind, still has some dignity and hasn't resorted to panhandling. Instead he talks up sightseers and provides them with impromptu historic tours of his once-proud city. He dreams of one day living in Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty. We also get to see the hotel owner, a harried widow trying to deal with the demands of her guests as well as a nephew who'd rather talk revolution than work.

    Some might be dissatisfied with the scattershot nature of Sayles' narrative but it's a style I enjoy. We visit these people for a brief time in their lives and then we leave. For most of these characters, their lives don't change by the time the credits roll; instead we're left with the hope that things get better for them.

    The subject matter itself struck a few chords with me on a personal level. I have a cousin who, along with his wife, went through the long and nerve-wracking adoption process. I'm happy to say that not only did they finally manage a successful adoption, but they were also blessed soon afterwards with a child of their own. And way back in 1976 my family and I went on vacation to see our relatives in Texas. We briefly visited Mexico and it was there that I first experienced real poverty. I was ten at the time and I've never forgotten those people sitting on the sidewalk, holding their hands out to us.

    Back to the film, the ensemble cast is terrific - it's great to see that older ladies like Rita Moreno and Mary Steenburgen have still got it. Marcia Gay Harden is especially good as the least sympathetic of the women - she's difficult and more than a bit racist. I liked Susan Lynch as the Irish-born Bostonian who dreams of happier times with the little girl she's looking to adopt. Her scene with the maid (who has her own dreams) is heart-rending. Daryl Hannah is very good as the hardcore athelete trying to outrun the pain she feels over losing to various defects, three babies of her own. Lili Taylor is the cynical New Yorker, the only one among the group who can have children. But she's given up on relationships and isn't getting any younger. Maggie Gyllenhaal is sort of a fifth wheel in her underwritten role, but she's so darn cute I didn't care. [​IMG]


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  2. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Agreed Steve, this kind of breaks the great roll that Sayles has been on, but it's the old adage that "good" Sayles is still better than 90% of everything else. The women's roles were all well done and display Sayles' talents for dialogue and speedy character development, but I found the socio-political edge less satisfying/well integrated than it usually is in one of his films.

    But that scene with Vanessa Martinez and Susan Lynch was so moving that I easily forgave the film its faults. I wish I could see a lot more of Martinez, seems like she's been outstanding in 3 Sayles films and I can't recall seeing her in much else.

    I'll try and elaborate more when I have more time.

    His new film looks like it could be prime Sayles, Silver City, about Colorado political shenanigans.

    And I don't remember Marcia Gay Harden having so much junk in the trunk. Red beans and rice didn't miss her...[​IMG]
     
  3. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Yeah, that's pretty much why I wish the film had been a bit longer. I found the stories of the natives - the street urchin, the jobless man, the seedy nephew - just as compelling as those of the prospective mothers. Why can't the man get a good job? Why did the nephew dream so of revolution? Did the little kid sell that book?

    On the other hand, by getting us interested in these people and then leaving their fates up in the air as he did, Sayles forces us by default to think more about the issues presented. Had we been given a pat happy ending, I doubt I would have been inspired to start this thread.
     
  4. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Picked this up a couple times and put it back. I will get around to it though. Figured Steve would jump in here, considering his beloved Miss G is in it.
     

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