Featuring: Rita Blanco, Joaquim de Almeida, Roland Giraud
Director: Ruben Alves
Writers: Ruben Alves, Hugo Gélin, Jean-André Yerles
Movie website: www.palacefilms.com.au/thegildedcage/
2013-14 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville: 30 Dec–5 Jan, 8pm
Joondalup Pines: 7–12 Jan, 8pm
Verdict: Charming, humorous, gently thought-provoking and always entertaining.
Maria (Rita Blanco) and José (Joaquim de Almeida) live with their adult daughter Paula (Barbara Cabrita) and teenage son Pedro (Alex Alves Pereira) in a modest but comfortable apartment in Paris. Since migrating from Portugal 30 years ago, they have worked hard to establish themselves, Maria as a concierge and José as a builder. When they inherit a family property in rural Portugal, they have the opportunity to realise a long-held dream to return to their home country, but family, friends and work pressures seem to conspire to keep them in France.
Going by the full house at Somerville on its opening night screening, The Gilded Cage is shaping as one of the hits of the 2013/14 Perth Film Festival. And for good reason. It’s charming, humorous, extremely well performed, gently thought-provoking in its treatment of cultural stereotyping, the sometimes challenging and opposing forces within families, and the need to belong – and always entertaining.
Debut director and co-writer Ruben Alves has done a fine job in crafting the piece, introducing character upon character – all strong – without losing the plot (sorry), and maintaining a quiet but steady pace throughout, mostly via tight, sharp dialogue delivered with panache and deft timing by a classy cast. The actors appear to relish their roles; their energy and enthusiasm is contagious.
The dramatic high point is a dinner party held to celebrate the engagement of Maria and José’s daughter Paula to Charles, the son of José’s boss, Francis. This symbolic union of the two families, one French the other Portuguese, is full of awkward moments, as both over-polite parties strive to please. The characters play off some fine lines, simultaneously building tension and humour. Chantal Lauby steals the scene as Charles’ dippy (and habitually tipsy) mother, confusing Spanish and Portuguese history and culture. She endears herself to all when she takes it upon herself to answer the door and deal with a bothersome and snooty apartment owner who comes calling at 10pm to ask José to fix her plumbing.
But lest we start feeling too comfortable in our amusement, the mood alters abruptly and quite shockingly with an altercation between father and daughter that ultimately propels the narrative to a happily predictable family-affirming conclusion, feel-good yet not saccharine.
What more do ya want of a balmy summer’s eve of outdoor cinema?
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