We started our day a bit later than normal. The first movie of Saturday was A Better Life. We saw this film downstairs at the AMC Lincoln Square on 68th Street. We have a love/hate relationship with this theater. We love it because not only do they have a wide variety of films, the theater itself is very nice on the inside. The sound works, the floors are clean and the chairs don't make a squeaky noise when you sit down. It's really a beautiful place, and it's the only place in New York City that has a true IMAX screen. But we've had some unpleasantness here, and we joking refer to this theater as 'cursed'... more on that later. For the day, we were banished to the bottom floor where they have three screens - typically showing less-popular films.
On our program for today: A Better Life, Chris Weitz's immigration drama, a loose remake of The Bicycle Thief. And the equally dramatic Mr. Popper's Penguins. But let's start with A Better Life.
Erica: This film was heartfelt and it made me feel sorry for the main character, Carlos, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who snuck over to Eastern Los Angeles to provide for his son, Luis, and offer him a better opportunity. The movie captured the raw grittiness so well, it felt like I was there with them along the way.
Mike: I liked it. On the one hand it's hard to believe that the film was directed by Chris Weitz, who just over a decade ago brought us American Pie. But he also brought us About a Boy, so it's not completely surprising. His direction is excellent and he manages to keep the melodrama at an appropriate level. I also liked how it switched between the Spanish and English language - it seemed realistic enough to me. The performance by Demian Bichir is pretty remarkable as well - he's a character who just has a lot of bad luck, but he's able to keep our sympathy at bay by making us really admire him.
My only real problem with the film is its last 20 minutes, where it teeters on the edge of propaganda and becomes a 'message movie'... which is a shame considering all it had built up to at that point. Overlooking that, it's a great flick which I hope will fly into your radar.