Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Frank Review of "Fidel" (2000)

The Short Version? Castro the idealistic revolutionary gone wrong.
What Is It? Biopic.
Who's In It? Gael García Bernal as Che.
Should I See It? Maybe.

A solid if somewhat typical biographical mini-series, originally presented by the Showtime cable network. The dialogue is, as expected, plagued by exposition and diatribe. Víctor Huggo Martin plays the infamous political figure as an inspired idealist, but also an opportunistic and deluded rebel leader turned paranoid dictator. A lengthy credit sequence in which an aged Castro marches through his palace makes clear the filmmaker's prejudice against the man, and as the story unfolds we find a womanizer whose trial-and-catastrophic-error path toward social uprising costs hundreds of dedicated lives. Still, Martin remains sympathetic through most of the running time, with devoted speeches and, eventually, clever strategy. Gael García Bernal delivers a quirky and passionate performance as Che Guevara, later to be reprised in The Motorcycle Diaries, and putting to shame Benicio Del Toro's ill-considered turn in Steven Soderbergh's Che. Cecilia Suárez is a cool and intense Celia Sanchez. Tony Plana, long typecast as "evil Latino," in no way endangers his niche as Battista. There's no shortage of strong heroines in the picture, well played by Alejandra Gollas, Margarita Rosa de Francisco and Patricia Velasquez. The direction of David Attwood is problematic, as there are stylistic flourishes and a laughable bit of dubbing at the end that drop kick the viewer right out of the movie. Still, surprisingly entertaining for a movie about the inequities of capitalist and socialist regimes.

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