REVIEW: A Better Life

4 04 2012

If Washington can’t overhaul border security for the safety of our nation, they should at least pass some legislation that will discourage Hollywood from making me sit through another self-righteous movie about illegal immigrants like “A Better Life.”  It’s the same problem I had with “Like Crazy” – how are we supposed to feel sorry for people who have willfully broken the law and then complain when the world isn’t working for them?  There are plenty of channels for legal immigration into the United States, and merely crossing over the border does not entitle anyone to all the benefits of being an American.

Full disclosure, I am from Texas and do have strong views on the issue.  Nonetheless, director Chris Weitz does little to turn the odds in his favor by conveying the story with a total lack of vehemence, urgency, or feeling.  It’s a frigid, understated tale of a harsh world for a man, Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) just trying to squeak out a living for his son Luis (Jose Julian) and squeak by the police.

Bichir is fine, but the Oscar nomination was surely more of a political statement than an artistic statement.  He conveys Carlos’ pain in watching his business collapse under the weight of Murphy’s Law as well as the concern for Luis to make something more out of his life than selling drugs.  Yet what could have been a tour de force in an appeal to pathos just feels rather lukewarm.  It’s a fairly interesting watch, but ultimately “A Better Life” could have been a better movie.  B-

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