By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
The most surprising fact about All In, the crazy quilt of the Argentinean comedy in competition at the Tribeca Film Festival, is that it won the award for Best Screenplay. While offering a pleasant time, the film’s energy and color reflecting the whirl of a frenetic Buenos Aires by day, and a bustling neon-lit casino by night, the script founders in its inexplicable detours to nowhere. It’s so encumbered by the extraneous, with a third act bordering on the ludicrous, that it’s puzzling how the Tribeca jury arrived at the decision that this script was the best. Perhaps the Spanish title, “La Suerte en tus Manos” or “The Luck In Your Hands” offers up a clue … for it seems that an inordinate amount of good luck did indeed land in the hands of screenwriters Daniel Burman and Sergio Dubcovsky.
Another lucky shot happened by casting first-time actor Jorge Drexler in the lead. Not unused to fame, having won the Academy Award for Best Song in 2004 (“Al otro lado del río” from The Motorcycle Diaries), the Uruguayan musician is a charismatic fellow who dives into the role with obvious enjoyment.
He plays Uriel Cohan, a slightly neurotic financier and divorced dad, who has as much good luck with online poker as he does with women. The film opens up as he’s delivering a rapid-fire monologue to his internist (who acts more like a combination rabbi and therapist). He confesses that ever since his divorce, he’s suddenly so much in demand (“it’s like an anthropology study”), that he’s concerned he may inadvertently impregnate one of his dates. Um, hasn’t middle-aged urban sophisticate Uriel ever heard of condoms? He decides that he needs a vasectomy, asap. Given his rush, perhaps a crowd of eager females are knocking down his door this very minute.
While he’s dispatched into minor surgery, we meet Gloria (Argentinean actress Valeria Bertuccelli), who’s deeply unhappy with her current lover. She and Uriel used to date, but she found his style “a bit basic,” since all he wanted to do was take her to seedy motels. Given that this is a romantic comedy, of course they bump into each other, of course they spark, and you can guess the rest.
Back to going all-out with All In: We get a scene with the two lovebirds having fun in a kiddie ball pit, rolling around in blue balls (the pit’s, not the protagonist’s). Director Daniel Burman keeps the camera running for such an excessive amount of time, we wonder if some mishap occurred and the film malfunctioned, repeating the same frames over and over. Later, a masked poker player reveals himself to Uriel at a gaming table, and Uriel is shocked. Fine. But the camera goes up and back multiple times, lingering on Uriel’s face, switching to the other man’s, etc., etc. Nothing changes; Uriel continues to be shocked, and the stranger continues to be delighted. What’s the point? As for the final act – and no, this is not a spoiler – a concert occurs. Two minutes would have been fine but no, for some reason it’s necessary that we sit through many a song. The concert doesn’t further the plot, and this isn’t some play-off while the credits roll. We, and the film, are simply stuck.
Given that Uriel is an inveterate liar, All In addresses the fact that sometimes his fiction can get him into trouble. But the conflicts are trifling, never truly impacting the plot as much as we might assume the filmmakers would like. Uriel tells a lie; oops, he gets caught but escapes any real reverberations. Next.
That said, scenes between Gloria and her careerist mother (the well-respected film veteran Norma Aleandro) add a decided dollop of satire and spice. Uriel’s two young children are perfectly cute, and there’s a definite chemistry between the two leads.
It’s a nice screenplay … but Best? I think Uriel’s telling yet another lie.
Rating on a scale of 5 poker-playing Pinocchios: 2.5
Directed by: Daniel Burman
Screenplay by: Daniel Burman and Sergio Dubcovsky
Cast: Jorge Drexler, Valeria Bertuccelli, Norma Aleandro, Gabriel Schultz, Luis Brandoni, Paloma Alvarez Maldonado, Lucciano Pizzichini
Running Time: 107 minutes