Before Night Falls Movie Review

Is there a rule that all biopics must begin at birth and end at death? Death I can understand, but the actions of a three-month old just don't seem of much relevance to any story, regardless of how important the subject is.

Alas, the subject of Before Night Falls is likely not a name you'll be familiar with anyway, but there he is, a speechless little boy playing in a pit dug in the ground. As it turns out, Reinaldo Arenas was an acclaimed Cuban author, and I have to take the press notes' word on that, as I've never heard of the guy. His life certainly appears to have been filled with adventure and tragedy, as many Cuban lives undoubtedly have been. Outcast as a youth for his interest in writing and his predilection for the male gender, Arenas was persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, and infected (apparently with AIDS, though it's never really specified). And all the while he just wants to write his poetry and novels. Perhaps the best scene in the film has Arenas floating in escape from one round in prison, his manuscript tied to his waist in a plastic bag.

Strangely, it comes as quite a surprise that few of these misadventures are engaging to watch. By the end of the film (which is more than two hours in length), I neither feel like I know Arenas, nor do I know much of his work, save for a few good, but straightforward, poems about the rigors of growing up Cuban. Shrug.

Relying on a style that he must have hoped would be mistaken for avant-garde, director Julian Schnabel wanders throughout Arenas's life with little care for structure and sense. Arenas will be sweating his way through some torturous scene, then interpretive dance will fill the next. We are invited to let the film wash over us, but its disjointed amateurism prevents that from happening with much success. In his second film, Schnabel attempts to improve on his truly lame Basquiat, another down-and-out artist tragedy, and at least Before Night Falls is better than that. But that isn't saying a whole lot.

As Arenas, actor Javier Bardem bears a striking resemblance to the man, but his demeanor feels all wrong. Mush-mouthed and mopey, he comes across as a Cuban David Schwimmer, which I can't really imagine was Schnabel's intent. With an intrusive voice-over that runs the entire length of the film, only a couple of nutty cameos from Sean Penn and Johnny Depp serve to lighten the proceedings very much.

So, what better story for the holidays than a little something about years of Communist oppression followed by a tragic, debilitating death in exile? Ah, sounds like Christmas.

Night, rain fall.


Comments

Before Night Falls Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2000

Editors Recommendations

MS MR Admit They're 'Natural Performers' As They Enjoy 2014's Festival Season

Some bands are worth getting excited about and, with the festival season well under way...

MS MR Admit They're 'Natural Performers' As They Enjoy 2014's Festival Season

Miley Cyrus Forced To Cancel More 'Bangerz' Tour Dates As She Remains Hospitalized

Miley Cyrus is still receiving hospital treatment for "severe allergic reaction...

Miley Cyrus Forced To Cancel More 'Bangerz' Tour Dates As She Remains Hospitalized

Peaches Geldof Will Be Laid To Rest In Same Church As Late Mother

Peaches Geldof, who suddenly died at the beginning of this month (April 7th)...

Peaches Geldof Will Be Laid To Rest In Same Church As Late Mother

Gwen Stefani To Step In For Christina Aguilera On "The Voice"

We never would have pegged Gwen Stefani as the reality talent panelist type...

Gwen Stefani To Step In For Christina Aguilera On

Bryan Singer Announces Alibi, But It Won't Help "X-Men" Marketing

As X-Men director Bryan Singer is gearing up for his defense case, which he will have...

Bryan Singer Announces Alibi, But It Won't Help

Prince To Release New Album With New Warner Bros. Records Partnership

Prince and Warner Bros, Records seem to have put their differences aside...

Prince To Release New Album With New Warner Bros. Records Partnership

Lindsay Lohan's Ex List Was Actually A Step In Her Recovery

Lindsay Lohan really did write down her now infamous list of lovers, which has been...

Lindsay Lohan's Ex List Was Actually A Step In Her Recovery

'Mrs. Doubtfire' Cast Reluctant For Sequel: A Cash Cow For Robin Williams?

The news that a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel is definitely in the works 21 years after the 1993...

'Mrs. Doubtfire' Cast Reluctant For Sequel: A Cash Cow For Robin Williams?

Music Fans Crown Ozzy Osbourne And Lady Gaga "Hardest Artists To Understand"

Music fans have named Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna in their top ten hardest...

Music Fans Crown Ozzy Osbourne And Lady Gaga


More recommendations