It's comforting to know that hard-working people everywhere suffer from stress just as we Americans do. Rafael Belvedere, the good-looking, divorced, 42-year old restaurateur in Juan José Campanella's Son of the Bride is proof. At the center of this Argentine/Spanish production (a 2002 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film), he is a foul-mouthed slave driver in the workplace, a forgetful Dad, an unfeeling son, and oh, he's about to have a heart attack. The health setback causes Rafael to rethink his path, and head for personal salvation; at the same time, Campanella redirects his own cinematic journey, turning a saccharine, overplayed concept into a smartly-written, touching family diary, full of drama and wit.

Just as the pre-cardiac arrest Rafa is vapid and unhappy, so is Campanella's film before the incident. Ricardo Darín, in the lead role, is a standout, sputtering dialogue like an angry boxer throwing jabs, but we've seen most of this before. He ignores the situations around him, works his fingers to the bone, and doesn't appreciate life. The prospects for an original, honest movie get worse when Rafa's aging father (Héctor Alterio) reveals his wish to renew his vows with Rafa's stunning mother (Norma Aleandro), regardless of her losing battle with Alzheimer's. Alterio's gushy proclamation is too sticky-sweet, and the film seems headed for soap opera territory.

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