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With: Ricardo Darín, Norma Aleandro, Héctor Alterio, Natalia Verbeke, Eduardo Blanco
Written by: Juan José Campanella, Fernando Castets
Directed by: Juan José Campanella
MPAA Rating: R for language
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 124
Date: 03/18/2013

Son of the Bride (2002)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Wrong Side of the Wed

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Oscar-winning films, and even Oscar nominees, sometimes have a strange effect after the awards have been handed out. People go to see them, and their response is, "That was an Oscar nominee? For crying out loud, why?" And despite the fact that Best Foreign Film nominee Son of the Bride eventually won me over, that's exactly how I felt about it.

Imported from Argentina and directed by Juan José Campanella, Son of the Bride (sounds like a monster movie, doesn't it?) follows a stressed-out restaurant owner named Rafael (Ricardo Darín) who barely has time for his pretty girlfriend Nati (Natalia Verbeke) or for his daughter from his now-defunct marriage. Not surprisingly, Rafael suffers a near-fatal heart attack.

At the same time, Rafael's father Nino (Héctor Alterio) wants to re-marry his wife, the poor Alzheimer's-riddled Norma (Norma Aleandro), even though she often can't remember who he is. Unfortunately, their church won't recognize such a wedding, and so they must set up an unofficial, ceremonial one, using Rafael's childhood friend-turned-actor Juan Carlos (Eduardo Blanco) as the minister.

With these potentially tearjerking situations as its shaky foundation, Son of the Bride deftly maneuvers through the dead ends and pitfalls using its vivid characterizations. Rafael never lets his midlife crisis become his end-all, be-all, never turns it into slapstick or pathos. He simply moves around the proverbial roadblock and back into his life again, only to realize that things want to move more slowly now.

It helps that Darín is such an appealing actor, with his kindly eyes and friendly chipmunk's face. In fact, most of the actors give winning performances -- with the possible exception of Eduardo Blanco, who looks and acts like Roberto Benigni, but more annoying.

Indeed, Son of the Bride often feels sloppy and slapped together with bits of fat hanging over the edges. But what it loses in artistry, it makes up for in warmth. I just wish I could offer a more ringing endorsement for an Oscar nominee. This film comes nowhere near the quality of its fellow nominee Amélie or the winner No Man's Land, or even some of last year's non-nominees like Iran's The Circle, Hong Kong's In the Mood for Love or Japan's Eureka.

I'm sure the movie's advertisers will want to use the Oscar-nominee thing as a cookie to get you to see Son of the Bride, but in this case that's a bad idea. If you're able to go, relax and lower your expectations, you might be carried away by it. But if you're looking for a masterpiece, you'd do better to catch Amélie while it's still in town.

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