Tuesday, February 15, 2011

IMMIGRATION TANGO opens. And... why? Oh, well, why not?


The whiff of "vanity production" hangs rather heavily over the new film IMMIGRATION TANGO. But of whose vanity are we speaking? My guess would be one of its stars, Elika Portnoy, who also produced/executive produced the movie and had a hand in its screenplay. (She also starred in, executive-produced and co-wrote an earlier film, Tricks of Love, aka Tricks of a Woman.) Ms Portnoy is attractive and can act agreeably enough, but I don't know that, on the basis of what we see in Immigration Tango, she would be the ideal actress for this role. Actually, none of the cast appears particularly ideal. But since the screenplay generally sucks, it probably would not matter who was cast in these roles. However, the actors on view all do the job required from this alternately pleasant and very heavy-handed "romp" (those quotes appear because the cast often seems to be romping in cement sneakers).

The hoary plot hinges on a couple of about-to-be illegal immigrants who very much want to stay here in America and who, thanks to their best friends, resort to the old "marriage" ploy. Complications -- directed and co-written by one, David Burton Morris -- ensue. Mr Morris, pictured at left (and I ask my reader to remember that a cigar is just a cigar), does a serviceable enough job of handing us a standard plot guided home in standard fashion.

The quartet of leads includes (in addition to Ms Portnoy, above, left) the hunky Carlos Leon (below, right), a former celebrity personal trainer whose IMDB listing calls him a native New Yorker born in Cuba (neat trick, Mr. Leon!); the white bread guy (his name is even Mike White) who is writing his dissertation on the sonnets (played by McCaleb Burnett, above, right); and his girlfriend and lawyer-in-training Betty Bristol (Ashley Wolfe, below, left). They are all, with the exception of Mr. Burnett, Tricks of Love alumni, and they do their damndest to keep up with the ridiculous plotting.

The film's weakest element by far is its screenplay, which tends to go for the obvious whenever possible, then turns on a dime when necessary to further the plot machinations. Consequently, "Are these the stupidest, most crass set of characters I've ever seen!" you're thinking one moment -- and the next, "Awww, they're kinda sweet..."  For instance, Mike proves remarkably altruistic going into things, and then he's suddenly ready to abandon ship. Likewise, the characters give lip-service to the strictly enforced immigration laws and the penalties for trying to get around them. And then they behave as though such laws don't even exist: leaving their apartment door open so that the immigration official can enter unannounced and discover -- oh, but why spoil things? Members of at least one of the two couples love their significant other -- until, suddenly, they don't. As for Mike's utterly caricatured parents, the less said the better.

The worst offense, however, involves the immigration officer, played by Avery Sommers, who's on the trail of the foursome. The hoops through which this poor actress is asked to jump ought to have assured her some heavy overtime pay. That she retains her dignity as a performer -- and she does -- is just about miraculous. But then the style of the films begs for hamming it up, and some of the cast, as you can see in the still above, is more than happy to oblige. According to the movie's poster, the film won best picture at some international film festival or other, and Mr. Leon won best actor at yet another. I've tried enlarging and then printing out the poster image in order to read the fine print to learn exactly which festivals these were. No luck. But if this was the best film, I would be deeply interested to learn what passed for competition.

From Roadside Attractions, Immigration Tango opens Friday, February 18, in various cities. On the film's web site, we are admonished to click here to learn the specific theaters. I did, but nothing showed up. Maybe by the time you click, the necessary information will have been provided.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

FYI, both Best Film and Best Actor were from the Boston International Film Festival (according to the poster).

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Anonymous. You have saved my failing eyesight!

Anonymous said...

Why did the film not open in Boston where it won its festival award? That's odd.

James van Maanen, said...

That does seem odd, Anon -- maybe it will open there eventually. (Although reviews have been generally so awful that... maybe not.) Is Boston where you're based, I am guessing?