"The Maldonado Miracle" (2003- TV) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
I learned a lot from the experience of seeing this film
at Sundance. I learned that Jesus has type-O-positive blood, I learned
how movies like Solaris can get good reviews when people want the
director to succeed, and I learned why my anonymous outsider status is
so important to objectivity.
Salma Hayek made her directorial debut for Showtime with this G-or-PG-rated family flick. She filmed this movie in Utah, and it seemed during the Utah premiere that half the audience was involved in the production. Salma herself is a refreshingly open, charming, energetic, funny, intelligent and generous person. The audience loved her. The cast and crew thought she was the best boss they had ever had. The Utah filmmaking community embraced her support of their efforts. The entire screening was a virtual agape between Salma and the audience, which applauded all the individual names in the credits, and gave the film a rapturous standing ovation.
It has to be the only time I've ever heard the audience cheer for guys like the assistant key grip.
"All right - Joe Schmuck! Woo! Wooooo!"
Everyone in the audience, including me and probably especially Joe Schmuck, wanted the film to be a rousing success. They wanted it so much that they projected their hopes on the results. I might be writing something different right now if I were an insider or if I knew Hayek, because everyone who knows her seems to adore her and wants to shelter her from criticism. She's just so damned nice and so humble, how could you feel otherwise? According to location reports, she was actually pitching in with a hammer and nails when set construction was falling behind schedule. How can you give a bad review to somebody like that?
I don't know. I guess I'm just downright mean.
This movie stinks.
It reeks to high heaven.
It's basically at the same level of sophistication as one of those ABC after-school specials. Some of the acting performances are barely above the level shown by small town auto dealers who do their own used car commercials. The dialogue is jaw-droppingly bad (think "Dondi"). The storyline is sappy and unoriginal, virtually a sentimentalized retread of a sardonic 2000 film called Picking up the Pieces, an unsuccessful film, but one which was nonetheless directed by the great Mexican director Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate).
The town of San Ramos is dying. People are moving out, and even the priest has asked for a transfer. The town's morale is at its nadir until the day when a statue of Christ seems to be crying blood. Word of the miracle spreads, and soon the town is booming again. People come to San Ramos to be healed. The lame walk. The infertile conceive. The lonely find love. Crocodiles start eating with utensils. Jerry Springer is chosen to be the next James Bond. Jimmy Carter defeats Mike Tyson in the ring, causing Tyson to devote his life to building housing for the poor. Reality shows disappear from TV. Arabs and Israelis embrace. Dubya and Saddam go camping together, and rescue an adorable baby deer. Lost fathers are found by big-eyed children. You get the picture.
It turns out that an illegal Mexican boy was injured in an escape from the border patrol, hid in the church, and changed his clothing on the scaffold above the statue, thus dripping blood on Christ's face. Unscrupulous locals deduce the truth, and conspire to keep the boy from telling his story, because if he did so it would end their town's renascence.
But if that was just the boy's blood - well, gosh darn it, how do you explain all those other miracles? Especially the Tyson thing?
You'll have to watch it to find out.
|In Alfonso Arau's version of the story, it turned out that a "hand of the Blessed Virgin" was actually the hand of an unfaithful wife who has killed and chopped up by her butcher husband. The other plot details and dramatic conflicts are about the same. To be fair, Arau's R-rated movie is meant to be sardonic, and Hayek's film is supposed to be a sentimental wide-eyed G-rated entertainment, so the parallel plots don't really suggest any similarities in tone or atmosphere.||
I don't know how many of the film's liabilities should
be blamed on Salma. She didn't write the sappy script, and Showtime
already had the project in the pipeline, so she didn't develop it, but
she was in charge, so the fact that the movie is poor is ultimately
Having said that, I really have to add that I would be happy to invest money in a Salma Hayek project. When you hire this woman, she gives you everything she has, as she demonstrated with Frida and with this project. She'll be a good director someday as well, because she wants to learn how to do it, and she has the energy and intelligence to get it right. There's nothing really bad about the pacing, photography, set design, or editing of this film, and the narrative is coherent. After all, it's just supposed to be a made-for-cable family film, so I'm not sure what more she could have done with it.
While Salma did nothing to make us forget Kubrick, and she hasn't acquired all the technical and artistic expertise of her fellow actor-turned-helmsman George Clooney, she did just as workmanlike a job as a professional TV director, which is a helluva start because those TV people normally take years to achieve that level of proficiency.
And let's face it, people love her.
And with good reason.
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