KCET Cinema Series: “A Better Life”

Viewed 6/7/11

by Doug Duke

Week two of KCET’s Summer Cinema Series started off with Pete Hammond introducing the film as well as some of the upcoming films! June 14th: THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER and Q&A with first time writer/director David Robert Mitchell. June 21st: PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES Q&A follows with director Andrew Rossi. Lastly, for now, June 28th: LARRY CROWNE Q&A follows with Oscar nominated co-writer Nia Vardalos (writer and star of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING). Then it was time for Chris Weitz’s A BETTER LIFE.

Chris Weitz’s filmography has been pretty broad (AMERICAN PIE, DOWN TO EARTH, ABOUT A BOY, GOLDEN COMPASS, & NEW MOON from the TWILIGHT Saga). I’ve heard great things on ABOUT A BOY and I am a fan of CHUCK & BUCK. Chris played Chuck, actually. That is a pretty uneasy film and Chris is phenomenal in it! The point is: A BETTER LIFE is hands down his best film to date!

This has been the second week that I’ve come to KCET Series and have had no idea about the film I was going to watch. I think I will keep it that way because I’ve loved both films so far.

A BETTER LIFE is a story about a father and his son. It stars Demian Bichir as Carlos Riquelme and newcomer Jose Julian as Luis Riquelme. Demian is a HUGE star over in Mexico but is just coming up here in America. Most of us probably know of him because of Showtime’s WEEDS, which he is phenomenal in. Pete Hammond mentioned that during the intro, so right away I knew I was in for a treat with a movie starring him! I was not let down. His performance is one of the best I have seen so far this year! He really grabbed me. Knowing him from WEEDS, which he plays a Mayor and a drug-lord, I’ve seen him as a very sharp and scary guy, not here. No he hunkered down into being a laborer in the city of Los Angeles. He completely lost himself in the role and the appearance. I have a new favorite actor!

Newcomer Jose Julian was pretty great in his own right, especially for his very first movie. There may have been a few weaknesses, in my own opinion and prejudices. Basically, Luis is a punk-ass teenage boy living in the tough streets of Los Angeles. His friends are no good and he is dating a girl whose uncles run a street gang. I think it was because of that type of lifestyle I found some of the scenes a bit unrealistic. Every time the setup comes for Luis to make the wrong choice, you feel oh great here we go down this road again, but thankfully the movie doesn’t take you somewhere you’ve already been and that was refreshing.

As the saying goes, every thing has been done and seen. Well, not every story has been told! This story is gripping and fantastic! Demian alone should make you go out and see this! The movie isn’t political at all, actually, but it’s funny how the issues come about in this father and son story. Hopefully this can soften up some hearts on the immigration issue.

It was another great night of film at the Aero, and it followed with a very informative Q&A with director Chris Weitz and producer Christian McLaughlin. Our thank you’s go out to them, Pete Hammond, Meghan, and of course FILM!

Bring on THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER!

★★★☆☆

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