Don Pedro, the patriarch of this Mexican-American clan, propels himself on a diet of cigars, chocolate, and bread, and watches over the Only Daughter, the Angry Son, the Harvest, the Fire, and Demon Drink.
"A Walk in the Clouds" is a little brother of "Like Water for Chocolate"--full of admiration for the big guy, not quite strong enough to go it alone. Director Alfonso Arau has brought the golden light, the family kitchen, and even some chocolate from his earlier film, but he lost some of its spirit on the journey from Mexico to America.
Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves) returns from World War II to a wife who is obsessed with material success. Stunned at the gulf between them, Paul bolts for a cross-country journey of self-discovery and immediately meets Victoria (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), who is returning to her family vineyard pregnant and abandoned.
Posing as newlyweds in order to dim her father's anger, the couple goes home together. As they come over the hill, the vineyard materializes in the amber glow of fairy tales. The world is suddenly awash in the sights and sounds of pretend. Crickets, moonbeams, and acres of grapes appear in a rush of music. When the bells ring the warning of impending frost, the family dons butterfly wings and, in a graceful ballet, fans the heat from the frost fires downward to the endangered fruit.
Paul suffers a torrent of abuse from Alberto (Giancarlo Giannini), who, like all the people and events in this movie, is painted in extremes of gruffness and love. Ms. Sanchez-Gijon is just right as the spirited Victoria, but Keanu Reeves is an enigma as Paul.
Whenever he keeps his mouth shut, which is most of the time, he has the innocent air of a soldier/idealist, but when he talks, his voice and emotions are flat. Speaking, he undermines the tale; in silence, he enhances it. But let's not quibble. We have decided to surrender.
Don Pedro, the patriarch of this Mexican-American clan, propels himself on a diet of cigars, chocolate, and bread, and watches over the Only Daughter, the Angry Son, the Harvest, the Fire, and Demon Drink. Anthony Quinn has an emotional field day.
Be warned that you must hold fast to your mood when Victoria, for example, says, "It's not your problem." At times like these, we remember reluctantly that we are in California, not Mexico; that it is 1945, not today. But you'll recover.
You have choices to make. You can choose to see Keanu Reeves as a wooden totem, or you can see him as the sweet innocence of World War II. You can choose to be annoyed by the cliche or to smile when a sleeping populace is roused and brought to the windows by a love song. You can choose to see the fire as ludicrous or as a labored metaphor for family pain. The family and its vineyard spring to life like a pop-up book suddenly opened, which isn't necessarily bad in a movie that begs us, unashamedly, for willing surrender. Considering the world outside this fairy tale, it's quite a fine way to spend an evening.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : 20th Century Fox
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h43m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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