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PostPosted: Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:32 am 
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VALERIA BERTUCELLI AND JORGE DREXLER IN ALL IN

Rom-com, Jewish, in Buenos Aires

Argentinian Daniel Burman's All In (Spanish title La suerte en tus manos), almost chokes on cuteness -- a pity because his movies are intelligent and have a light touch. This new one, whose protagonist, typically for this director, is a Jewish man, Uriel Cohen (singer Jorge Drexler) with a thoroughly un-Woody-Allen-ish Mediterranean suavity and charm, concerns a poker-playing financial whiz (Uriel) who reunites with an old girlfriend, Gloria (Valeria Bertuccelli), and takes her to a romantic hotel suite on the day when he has just gotten a vasectomy, and must abstain from sex. He has periodic sessions with his (Jewish) doctor Weiss (Luis Brandoni) who dispenses worldly wisdom to him; that not being enough he gets advice from his plump best pal at work Germán (Gabriel Schultz). His girlfriend reunites with her mother, a grande dame with a chatty intellectual talk show -- the latter played by real-life Argentinian diva Norma Aleandro. In a grand finale, everyone gathers for the reunion concert of a famous singing group whose opening act is an Orthodox Jewish rock band called The Rabbi-ing Stones, who include Uriel's little boy as a guest rock guitarist. All this far-fetched, wacky cuteness, and more, including poker games at a casino, only to produce a Hollywood-style rom-com, complete with dating montages of Uriel and Gloria cavorting romantically and rolling around on little bubble balloons. Burman forgets to include sex. Is that because of Uriel's two little kids, or his vasectomy?

Burman and his regular writing collaborator Sergio Dubcovsky have stuffed more ingenious stuff into their screenplay. The doctor has a surprise appearance (spoiler alert) at the casino. There is also the conceit of the twin keys Gloria and Susan (her grand madre) have to their father/ex-husband's flat, planned to "reunite" him (in absentia) with him. And there is the very elaborate, not to say tiresome, business about Uriel and Gloria's effort to make this second time around more like "dating" and therefore romantic and long-term (their first affair was pure sex), while Uriel's tendency to lie all the time -- he pretends to be an entertainment promoter instead of having a financial business -- ties him in knots. As busy as this movie is, Burman and Co. do keep it light, but it still feels fearsomely overstuffed. As Uriel and Gloria, Drexler and Bertucelli do have some chemistry, but Burman lets the stylized "com" push out the "rom."

Oh yes, and there is the further elaborate conceit of the doctor's advising Uriel to use a network of rabbis to get to the singing group, whose reunion Uriel has pretended to Goria to be engineering; and the free-thinking rabbi Uriel encounters at the casino, who says the Talmud doesn't prohibit gambling, as long as you acknowledge that "the luck is in your hands" (the film's Spanish title).

It still boils down to a few soulful moments between Uriel and Gloria: Bertucelli's intense face has a humanity in it Drexler's casual blandless lacks; the brief, glittering, metallic turns the seventy-something Norma Aleandro delivers; warm expressions on the face of Dr. Weiss; and the beautific smile of Lucciano Pizzicchini, as Uriel's ten-year-old son Otto, as he delivers fab electric guitar rifs (a la School of Rock) in Hassidic regalia on the stage in the finale. Nothing else has the slighest emotional resonance. And this is a shame, because as I saw in the one other Daniel Burman film I've watched, the 2006 Family Law, released in New York, he and Sergio Dubcovsky are capable of a subtle, light touch that's quite original, thought-provoking, and touching when they aren't trying to mimic Hollywood with a Jewish, Argentinian overlay. According to Variety's Ronnie Sheib, who knows Burman's whole oeuvre, his films have taken a darker turn recently and this is a return to the lightness audiences, especially Jewish ones, liked in him. But Sheib thinks, and I'd agree, that though the director pushes hard to make all the unrelated themes fit, he "relies excessively here on glitz and schmaltz," losing the originality of feeling and ambiance I observed in Family Law. Let's hope he gets back to that next time.

All In/La suerte en tus manos, 110 mins., opened in Argentina in March 2012. It was shown at Tribeca in April and has been back for festivals, including the New York Jewish Film Festival in January 2013 and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review, in early August 2013. No doubt about it, however tongue-in-cheek the Jewish themes, they are very much there.

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