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"The Motorcycle Diaries"

Directed by Walter Salles.
Written by Jose Rivera.  Based on previous publications Ché Guevara and Alberto Granado.
Starring Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De La Serna.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  10/5/04


I learned an important lesson in agreeing to attend the 9:30 PM showing of "The Motorcycle Diaries" this past Monday night:  don't ever go see movies with subtitles unless you are absolutely wide awake.

This had a devastating effect on my thoughts about "The Motorcycle Diaries", because I ran out of patience very early in this screening for the slow movement of the story and the lackadaisical nature of the onscreen "action" in the first half-hour, at which point I was in and out of sleep for the remainder of the film.

Some of this blame goes on me, for remembering too late that this film is 100% subtitled and it has a shitload of dialogue (actually, a fuckload, since the f-word gets so much play throughout the flick) that needs to be read and--for the tired eyeball--this is not a good thing!  Based on a road trip made by Ché Guevara before he was, you know, "Ché", the story follows Guevara (played here by "Y Tu Mama Tambien" lead Gael Garcia Bernal) and his buddy Alberto (Rodrigo De La Serna) as they make an 8,000-km motorcycle ride to discover the world and find themselves.  Along the way, there's women, and nuns, and Peru, and...well, you'll see.

I haven't read the books on which this film is based, and I'll admit that I only know enough about Guevara to know that my old boss used to think my goatee made me look just like Guevara and that he was quite the revolutionary...but, not much more.  As such, this comes off as a road flick to the uneducated schmoe like myself, and from the get-go, I thought that save for a much better looking set of backdrops here in "The Motorcycle Diaries", "Y Tu Mama Tambien" has cornered the market on this kind of film for me, and there were better sex scenes and conversations in that one.  Granted, "The Motorcycle Diaries" is much deeper and is a supremely better dramatic piece of work...but, it was so slow coming out of the gates that I never fully got into the storytelling or the preludes to what Guevara would fight for (and against, really) later in his life.

The flick is beautiful to look at, though, and even in my periodic slumber I felt that the lead performances by De La Serna and Bernal were solid.  They did get to say "fuck" a lot, which is also very cool, but I liked their chemistry throughout the film and even when things are humdrum, at least these two are fairly interesting to watch.

But I think that I will watch "The Motorcycle Diaries" again on video to see what I really think.  In the meantime, I was a little disappointed, partially because I was so bent on seeing it the day it came out and I feel like I've been waiting on this thing for months. 

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09