Directed by: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
Premise: A chef (Eduardo Verástegui) and a waitress (Tammy Blanchard) at a New York restaurant spend a day together walking the city streets and make a connection that will alter their lives.
What Works: Bella is an extremely well assembled film. It uses a very smart story structure, cross cutting between the past, present, and future in just the right moments. This allows Bella to cut corners in the storytelling and get the narrative from point A to point B without bogging down the momentum of the story or making leaps that are too large for the audience to handle. The result is a very streamlined film that balances out very well. Bella features some very strong performances by the lead actors. The film gives the characters, and the actors, permission to relax despite some of the intense underlying themes of the film, and allows them a bit of humor. The dramatic moments are staged quietly, allowing for the actors to use nuance to convey the emotions of their characters. This is very effective and avoids over the top sentimentality. Bella is also able to use the Hispanic culture of Eduardo Verástegui’s character as well as the metropolitan environment to give the characters a rich background in which they find each other. Like My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Bella thrives in the minority culture and uses the traditions and idiosyncrasies to allow opportunities for character development.
What Doesn’t: Some of Bella’s plot devices are familiar and a little tired. The newly pregnant waitress, the car accident, dinner with the family, the drama in the restaurant, and long strolls on the beach are all things that have been done before in films like 21 Grams, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Waitress. Bella does these scenarios very well and gets maximum mileage out of them, but it also retreads scenes the audience has seen before.
Bottom Line: Bella is a smart, sweet film that successfully uses an intimate scale to study the characters and their circumstances. It’s a nice picture that is very satisfying to watch.
Episode: #169 (December 9, 2007)