Wringing My Hands Over a Movie I Wanted to Love

Gallo, Ehrenreich

Gallo, Ehrenreich

Francis Ford Coppola’s second film of the decade, Tetro, offers much in the way of visuals and star-gazing, but the story—which could have been a compelling tale of resentment in a family of artists—disintegrates into something you’d expect from a Lifetime movie. Walking out, I was stunned by its resolution, and have spent a few days trying to see a larger picture in which it makes sense. I’ve got nothing.

It’s worth seeing, though, for its virtuosic direction and humorous moments, which are exceptionally true-to-life and beautiful. You’ll wish there were more of those, that it had been a simple story rather than a reach for something grand. The use of retro fashions in a contemporary setting to underscore the timelessness of the theme of familial power struggles is also wonderful (I loved this about another recent film about blood bonds, The Brothers Bloom, too).

The most engaging part of this movie is the acting, as it stars people we don’t often see and a couple of brilliant new faces. Vincent Gallo (the only name billed on the poster, which really amuses me) has many detractors: I am not one of them. I once wrote 8 pages off the top of my head on his directorial vision. The part of Tetro—a writer tortured by an overbearing father—is perfect for him, and a great opportunity for him to enter back into the cultural consciousness after a few years of obscurity post-The Brown Bunny (his H&M ad campaign is another such chance). Does anyone do neurotic, irritable, hypersensitive, aloof, and totally lovable like him? Don’t think so. Maribel Verdú, usually in all-Spanish films, is charming in the somewhat whimsical role of Miranda, Tetro’s girlfriend and former psychiatrist. Rodrigo De la Sarna of The Motorcycle Diaries is hilarious in the minor role of Tetro’s affable friend Jose. Much has been said about the performance of Alden Ehrenreich as Bennie, Tetro’s younger brother, and it is all true. Bennie’s vulnerability shines through even when he has found some success, and you never question whether anything is more important to him than Tetro’s love. It is his ability to portray this about the character throughout his experiences in the film that almost makes the conclusion sensible. Almost.

I will probably go on for a few more days hoping to magically have a better opinion of the movie, because it really is gorgeous and I can always appreciate the vision of an auteur, but for now I’m still sighing and scratching my head.

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