Saturday, November 03, 2007


The hype about Bella is swirling all around -- after all, I live in the Catholic Corner of the northeast part of the District of Columbia. Earlier in the week, a friend said, "I hear the secular press is panning it -- it's predictable. Well, they would pan a pro-life movie, wouldn't they?"

Well, I just got back from seeing it. I'm horrible at reviewing movies, never really having gotten the whole literary criticism thing down: I enjoy good stories, but don't ask me to explain why I liked this character or that plot sequence, or what it might all mean. So ... how was it? Well, predictable. Quite. Even the ending: there was only one of two possible choices. Yes, I got teary-eyed at times: I am not made of stone you know, and when a film is trying to push a particular emotional button, I give in, readily and easily. It's not a bad story, and I went along; it's heart warming and sweet. There's nothing wrong with that. The warm family scenes especially, well, warmed my heart. I find (Anglo) American family ties to be bewilderingly tenuous, and anything that celebrates deep family ties is great by me. However, I found myself thinking that José's family came on a bit too strong, you know? I was almost expecting Nina to recoil. I mean, it almost seemed like they were treating her like the nuera already.

Was it preachy? Well, no. Just predictable.

I am not sure I get the hype though.

I don't know that I'm as skeptical as Barbara Nicolosi
What is going on is a wildly over the top marketing blitz in which the investors in Bella are trying desperately to recoup their investment, by telling good Catholic people that they must support this film to send a message to Hollywood. As with so many other mediocre Christian movies, the only "message" that Hollywood will get if Bella does well, is that the Christian audience has no idea what a good movie is and will rave about anything that remotely mirrors our world-view. And the really sad thing is, that message isn't true. Most Christian people, like the rest of the world, do know a good story when they see one. So many, possibly most of the folks who are going to dutifully show up to support Bella this weekend are going to be disappointed or annoyed, or generally confused at what it is they are missing that everybody else is raving about. Trust your gut, audience of The Passion, you're not missing something. There's just not much in Bella to miss.
I didn't quite catch this bit during the movie -- the whole "it's a pro-life" movie having been drubbed in already. But, I think on this she's right.
I don't know what they were smoking at Toronto, but I suspect that the film was well-received there because of its occasionally charming images of a Latino family, but mainly because of the fact that Bella, regardless of what is being said about it, is ambiguous on the subject of abortion. One review I read praised the film for being a look at a problem pregnancy "in which the woman is supported in the choice that is right for her." (which has mysteriously disappeared this week...) was scratching their heads as to why pro-lifers were supporting Bella. One of the writers there wrote, "Just because a woman has a baby, doesn't make a movie anti-choice!"
For a rave, and a different take, check out the Papist. Or, pretty much, anything yielded by a search of St. Blogs.

Recommendation? Sure, go see it, whether to support the pro-life movie makers, or to enjoy a sweet, heart-warming story. But don't expect anything too great.


Mattheus Mei said...

Thanks for an honest review of the movie, I'm glad to know that unlike the Papist you don't tow the line and drum the support just because some would choose to label this a must see for Catholics, rather you judge this film for it's cinematic value. Good Job. (I've read the Papist, and the more I do the more I think he's the Bill O'Reily (sp?) of the blogosphere)

Gashwin said...

What, you think I've gone over to the Dark Side? :)

Read Barb's entire review -- I think she has a good handle on why there is such hype from conservative Catholics.

WordWench said...

I'm already getting the hype from people I know to go see this thing. Pro-life or not, it's just not my type of movie, and I'm telling people that. I'm sure I'll be tarred and feathered in the brains of some of my conservative Catholic friends, but this just isn't my cup of tea in general. My worry is that Catholics who don't want to go see it will somehow be impugned for not being "pro-life" enough. Thanks for a balanced take on it, as always!