The heartbreak of illegal immigration is vividly displayed in this poignant story of nine year old Carlos (Adrian Alonso) a boy living in Mexico with his grandmother while his mother (Kate del Castillo) works as an illegal domestic in Los Angeles trying to make enough money to send home so the son she has been separated from can live a good life--even if it means being without her. When the grandmother suddenly dies Carlos decides to cross the border and look for mom. As his journey continues he encounters a woman (America Ferrera) and her brother (Jesse Garcia) who make tuition money taking babies into the U.S. In this instance she decides to help smuggle Carlos across by hiding him in her van. Once he lands in Tuscon he meets a sympathetic middle- aged migrant worker named Enrique (Eugenio Derbez) who accompanies him to East L.A. Once there they try to locate his mother--their only clue being a vague description of the area around a pay phone she used in her weekly calls home to Carlos. The film which is shot mostly in Spanish with some English language scenes as well offers great big screen opportunities to some of Mexico’s biggest television stars including telenovela favorite Kate del Castillo. She delivers a moving performance as a mother living separated by borders with her only son but living “under the same moon.” The film really belongs however to young Alonso--a natural in front of the cameras who impressed American audiences as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas’ son in The Legend of Zorro but breaks out here as the determined Carlos. Both create a touching mother-son relationship even though they are never in any scenes together. Also playing against type is superstar Derbez unquestionably one of Latin America’s most popular actors who develops a winning chemistry with Alonso making every moment of their screen time count. Ugly Betty’s Ferrera also turns up for some effective moments including a heart-stopping sequence in which she is questioned by border guards while the van carrying the hidden Carlos is searched. Although she has made some award winning shorts Under the Same Moon represents the first feature length film for Mexican-born Patricia Riggen. She succeeds on all levels emphasizing the characters in the story over the potentially political hot button topic of immigration which her film so eloquently humanizes. Working with screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos the two women give urgency to the tragic separation of mother and son caught between two disparate cultures. Given the time restraints and low budget Riggen’s command of the camera is impressive particularly in the inventive and almost spiritual ways she manages to bring mother and son together on screen even though they never share a shot. Use of music is also hugely effective with Carlos Silotto’s melodic score recalling a similar film about a young dreamer Cinema Paradiso. Ultimately though Under the Same Moon lives or dies with the actors and Riggen’ spot-on casting decisions--particularly in the case of Alonso--really lift it to new levels. Most of the actors have extensive TV followings and Riggen knew by casting them she would risk the wrath of Mexican film critics who uniformly look down on television. Doesn’t matter. Under the Same Moon has universal appeal and should find approving audiences around the world.
Imagine only being able to communicate through blinking. Now imagine trying to dictate your memoirs in this grueling and time-consuming fashion. That’s how Jean-Dominique Bauby had to put his life and thoughts down on paper. The editor of French Elle suffered a stroke so severe that it rendered him almost entirely paralyzed for the remainder of his short life. He died less than 18 months later just days after the publication of his 1997 memoirs. Making amends for his laughable adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera Ronald Hardwood pays homage to Bauby’s remarkable achievement with an eloquent screenplay that examines the power of the mind over the body. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly begins on the day when Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) wakes up from a coma and is alarmed to find himself in a hospital completely paralyzed and unable to speak. But his mind is sharp as it ever was. Flashbacks reveal Bauby to be a man who lived life to the fullest and relished every challenge that came his way. So being stuck in a body that no longer functions as it once did is clearly pure hell for Bauby--until his therapist Henriette (Marie-Josee Croze) teaches Bauby to communicate by blinking his left eye. Bauby suddenly decides to honor a book contract he had signed before his stroke--and in the process he discovers his raison d’être. Like My Left Foot’s Daniel Day-Lewis before him Amalric indelibly proves that the mind can and will thrive even when the body is broken and beyond repair. Amalric though has less to work with than the wild-eyed Day-Lewis who had the luxury of drawing you into his performance by tapping into Irish author Christy Brown’s abrasive personality and larger-than-life presence. It’s mesmerizing to watch the intrepid Amalric at work even though he’s practically motionless for the entire film bar for a few flashbacks. While the rest of his face remains frozen solid Amalric eloquently expresses Bauby’s innermost hopes and fears through the mere blink of his left eye. There’s never a time when you don’t know how Bauby feels. And his narration is laced with gallows humor which helps keep Diving Bell free from drowning in sentimentality. As Bauby’s therapist Croze personifies patience dedication and resourcefulness we all expect and demand from health-care professionals but don’t always receive. Emmanuelle Seigner maintains a brave face as Bauby’s neglected wife Céline. You wait for Céline to crumble especially as Bauby never stops asking about his mistress but Seigner reveals Céline to be caring and forgiving. The most heartbreaking moments come between Amalric and Max von Sydow who plays Bauby’s father who is much trapped inside his apartment as Bauby is inside his body. There’s great sadness and regret to be found in von Sydow’s every word as he comes to the painful realization that he will outlive his rich and successful son which no father wants to do. Yes Diving Bell is the latest in a long line of inspirational fact-based films about physically and/or mentally challenged people mastering their disabilities. But director Julian Schnabel distinguishes himself and the film by shooting the first act solely from Babuy’s perspective. We see everything Bauby sees through his one good eye from the moment he comes out of his coma. What follows is confusing disorienting and taxing. And darkly humorous as evidenced by Bauby’s admiration of his females nurses. Schnabel’s approach though works to dramatic effect because we receive a greater understanding and appreciation of what Bauby’s experiencing. Stay the course and you will be rewarded for your patience. Once Bauby comes to terms with his fate and refuses to spend the rest of his days wallowing in self pity Schnabel finally turns his camera on Bauby to reveal his post-stroke physical appearance. It’s a quiet but ingenious way for us to accept Bauby as he accepts himself. Schnabel then concentrates on Bauby’s Herculean effort to dictate his autobiography which is occasionally interrupted by poignant flights of fantasy (it’s not hard to guess what the diving bell and the butterfly symbolize). Equal amounts of joy and regret are be found in Bauby’s reminiscing but Schnabel never tries to romanticize his subject or ignore to his past transgressions. Diving Bell doesn’t set to turn a flawed man into a hero but Bauby’s will and determination ultimately reinforces the notion that anything’s possible if you set your mind to it.
Could Madonna be digging out that white lacy wedding gown from her "Like a Virgin" days anytime soon?
Maybe. The pop diva reportedly told Britain's Mirror that marriage "may lie in the future" for she and her boyfriend, director Guy Ritchie ("Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels").
To be sure, the couple made their first big public outing at the premiere of the M One's new film, "The Next Best Thing". And she recently set up home in Ritchie's native London with 3-year-old daughter Lourdes.
In many a recent interview, the 41-year-old singer-actress has happily declared she's off the market but has been cagey about discussing that "Next Step" -- the one she took with Sean Penn 14 years ago. (Their marriage ended in 1989 after less than four years.)
"It's a serious relationship," she says of Ritchie, a reported 31, in this week's People magazine. "It's excellent. I have an enormous amount of respect for him as a person, his work, his talent. He's very bright."
But does she discuss wedding bells? She only says, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. If we get to it."
THE OUTSIDER: The film on his life may be up for seven Academy Awards, but "The Insider" himself -- one Jeffrey Wigand -- has yet to receive an invitation to the ceremony.
The controversial film's nods even include one for Russell Crowe, who portrays tobacco industry whistle-blower Wigand. Still, the real-life Wigand says no one from the production has said a word to him about Oscar night.
According to USA Today, Wigand called the Academy himself but was told the Oscar ceremony "wasn't the Super Bowl" and that tickets were in short supply.
Maybe Wigand needs to start hustling. Oscar buffs may recall that another controversial biopic figure, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, wrangled an invite to the 1997 ceremonies through nominee Woody Harrelson, who played him in the nominated film"The People vs. Larry Flynt."
OSCAR WATCH: Okay, so Jeffrey Wigand doesn't have a ticket, but "Ally McBeal" vixen and future "Charlie's Angel" Lucy Liu does. She'll make her Oscar debut as a presenter at the March 26 ceremony.
In other Oscar news, Kenny Ortega has been named choreographer for the ABC telecast. Now we know that producers have promised no dance productions, so what will Kenny do? "Several special surprise sequences," the Academy promises. As long as this doesn't equate to a Lord of the Dance production or a Rob Lowe-Snow White duet, we're good.
QUICK TAKES: Jerry Seinfeld and new bride Jessica Sklar reportedly have bought Billy Joel's 12-acre honeymoon cottage in New York's exclusive East Hampton for $40 million. It's a Spanish-style manor house on the ocean with a guest house, a pool and a barn ...
... Claudia Schiffer and Tim Jeffries have set May 20 as the date for their nuptials, according to the German magazine Bild. They will marry in a small church on the Spanish island of Majorca. The New York Post adds that the supermodel may insist the London gallery owner sign a prenup ...
... "Spin City" cast member Michael Boatman isn't so happy about the show's upcoming move to Los Angeles to accommodate new star Charlie Sheen. On Wednesday's edition of Howard Stern's radio show, Boatman complained that the move will be disruptive to cast members whose families set roots in New York to work on the sitcom. "It's kind of a big mess," he said.
JUST CAUSE: "Today" host Katie Couric has joined forces with Hollywood stalwart Lilly Tartikoff and the Entertainment Industry Foundation to form the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. The organization, officially launched Wednesday in New York, hopes to increase awareness of colon cancer and raise research funds.
Couric's husband, cable news legal analyst Jay Monohan, died of colon cancer in 1998, while Tartikoff's husband, NBC president Brandon Tartikoff, died of Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1997. The late Charles Schulz had agreed to participate in the campaign before his colon cancer-related death, and his family plans to carry out his commitment.
WEEKLY RUMOR ROUNDUP: A photograph of Jennifer Lopez in her plunging sheer green Versace dress was downloaded 642,917 times the day after the ceremony on the official Grammy Web site, and 1 million times by the following week, says the Post. We're afraid of what this means for future award-show dress codes ...
... Did they or didn't they? Sarah Michelle Gellar was seen on the arm of "Mission to Mars" star Jerry O'Connell many times in 1998 and 1999, but the vampire slayer told TV Guide: "No, [we didn't date]. We went to high school together." But when Fashion Wire Daily approached O'Connell, he said: "Yeah, I went out with Sarah, I did ... I wanted to keep going out with her! I was just too much of an idiot to keep it going. But I'm trying ... I'm working on my attention-span issues, I'm working on my commitment issues, I'm working on my communication issues." Didya hear that, Sarah?