A painful mark on Mexican-American culture...
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 06/23/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I would completely agree with anyone that would argue that Latino films need to become a bigger cultural asset. There are not enough Hollywood mainstream films being made that best depicts a Latino/Mexican/Spanish lifestyle. I would go to the theater to see a film that brought this undiscovered light to the cinematic surface. Alas, I don't like it when I get fooled by a film trying to be innovative, creative, and socially conscious at the same time, yet cannot complete a full sentence to save their lives. This is how I felt after I watched, and re-watched with audio commentary, the very underground film directed by Vincent Jay Miller entitled "Gabriela". A love story, intermingled with racial tensions, coupled with a bad marriage, horrible acting, and a plot that overall means nothing to the typical viewer. Am I being harsh? For a film like "Gabriela", I don't think the word "harsh" could be in the vocabulary.
"Gabriela" is about as independent as you can get - all the way down to the cameo appearance of Zach Galligan of "Gremlins" fame, you know the sort - the grainy filming, the obvious lack of budget, the partial nudity - all classic low-budget independent film tags which teeter between the actual "B" movie and that of value. "Gabriela" had no value. The jokes were pungent, the ending was skewed horribly, and the character reasoning seemed to be biased in hopes to only find a solution to the ending. This was a film driven by the ending, nothing more - nothing less. I hate to bash this film because the director did try to create something new in a recycled Hollywood, but he failed. I cannot put it any better. The direction was incredibly loose with characters constantly changing their initial personas, again, only to obtain the ending that Miller desired. The acting was atrocious, with obviously nobody caring about emotion, character traits, or reasoning. For example, Mike's best friend at the institution where they obviously have a job (though no work was ever witnessed on screen) was placed only in this film for "comic relief" and to demonstrate the juxtaposition of Mike's uncommon womanizing lifestyle. Mike's best friend, Douglas, was sadly NOT funny nor did he attribute anything of value to the film. Doug, played by Troy Winbrush, fell into the bad stereotypes role that could probably define the entire "Gabriela" film. I should have seen that by the horrid opening montage, but it took the entire film for me to see the light.
I must admit, the essence of this film that I hated the most was the fact that it was trying to bring a new style of "love story" to the big screen, but horribly fell prey to the cliché moments so eerily started in such films like "Traffic" - does Mexico have to be grainy every time we American's lay our eyes on it? "Gabriela" didn't just play to this stereotypes, but also fed it with a three-course meal. The entire scene with the Mexican police robbing the American by-standard was painful to not only watch, but to see disgrace just plow across my face. I thought this was at least a poor film with a message, but there wasn't even a message at the end. Cheat on your husband, find a better love, fool your naive family - all messages that we should associate with a culture that is already diminished and insulted in modern cinema. It just soured this experience.
Jamie Gomez and Seidy Lopez had no chemistry together. Outside of the few moments of passion that they shared (with an incredibly unfunny scene featuring Jamie's brother listening in), it was stale and forced most of the time. Their relationship wasn't built on anything, and I was about to vomit when he tried to sing along in a native tongue that was obviously acting like he didn't know the language, but actually did. It's hard to say, but with independent film, a director (even the actor) has the chances to take risks. That is what being revolutionary is all about, breaking the mold - but with "Gabriela" that didn't happen. I felt like this was your a-typical Hollywood film, with standard clichés that actually hurt the stereotypes further. The humor was pathetic, not even borderline funny, while the acting was coming straight from the can, instead of fresh from the vine. I got goosebumps each time we were introduced to the "crazy artist" of a brother and his "problem" with painting all the time. Or how about the time that our supposed hero's credit card arrives and he spends the day maxing it out. What is that teaching our youth or portraying on Latino culture? Was this film bad? Yep - this film was actually painful.
Overall, I cannot suggest this film to anyone. While I will stand behind the independent film nearly 99% of the time, this one fails to make the cut. Why? It doesn't try at all. It is painful on the eyes, it is shameful on the ears, and with Zach Galligan one continued to hope that at least one Gremlin would pop into frame, but alas, that would have been too "cutting edge" for even the likes of these producers. Avoid at all costs!
Grade ½ out of *****"