BAD HAIR (Pelo Malo) -- the new Venezuelan film from writer/director Mariana Rondón -- at times exhibits all three of these adjectives, it is much more of an unsettling and disturbing experience than anything in the feel-good realm. It is also very believable and rich in the specifics of a Latin American culture we haven't seen much on film. The movie certainly does not seem like most of the Mexican, Argentine or Brazilian films we're viewed so far, and its story (of a barely-working-class mother of two, the elder child of which appears, even at age nine and much to his mother's consternation, to be a budding homosexual) is anything but the stuff of cutesy, feel-good fantasy.
Marité Ugas), has given us a movie that is a near-constant and often hurtful, vicious tug-of-war between mother, Marta (Samantha Castilllo, below, right), and son, known simply as Junior (Samuel Lange, on poster above, and below, left), and the very-near incredible performan-ces she's wrenched from these two alone make the movie worth seeing. The family's life in the Caracas projects is captured with alternating sorrow and humor, as is the only other character of real importance to the film: the son's grandmother, who does not mind -- even seems to encourage -- the "gay" direction in which he is headed and keeps making noises about adopting him from mom, in return for which she'll give Marta some much needed money.
Nelly Ramos, below, right -- has managed to make about half of it that way in the scene above). Most viewers will agree that Junior is gorgeous with his own curly hair, and that his self-image could use some improvement. In the film's finale, that hair comes at last into its own, though perhaps not in quite the way we or Junior might expect.
Cinema Tropical and FIGa Films, opens this Wednes-day in New York City at Film Forum. Elsewhere? Yes: The film opens Dec. 5 in Miami, Chicago, and Boston; Dec. 10 in Santa Barbara; Dec. 12 in Houston. It will hit Vancouver in January. Maybe, once word-of-mouth begins, the film will garner even more openings around the country.