Emily Mody - Bel Canto

Posted on Thursday, November 01, 2018 at 06:00 PM

Bel Canto

Review by Emily Mody x CalgaryMovies.com

Bel Canto is a feature length American drama film directed by Paul Weitz. The story follows a world renowned opera singer, Roxanne Coss (played by Julianne Moore). She is invited to South America to perform for a wealthy industrialist. In the midst of her performance, revolutionaries seeking to kill the president break into the private home where the performance is taking place. The president was supposed to be in attendance at the event but decided not to attend at the last moment. The revolutionaries decide to hold everyone present hostage until their demands are met.

Bel Canto is an interesting film, I had very high expectations before I started. The overarching premise is a social problem film that discusses the polarity of good and bad and exhibits the complexities of that relationship. The film accomplishes this goal. Ultimately, however, I felt that some of the tonal intersections were misplaced, particularly the comedic moments.

I also struggled to enjoy watching a full story about the main character, Roxanne Coss. Although she did have some redeeming qualities, I found her to be entitled and elitist. Her character is only mildly remedied by Katsumi Hosokawa (played by Ken Watanabe), Coss’s love interest in the story. He is a selfless and compassionate individual who cares disproportionately about the people around him. His character also shares complexities however so I still struggled. There is also an important message being portrayed about love through racial and cultural difference. The way this message is communicated through Coss’s and Hosokawa’s relationship ultimately makes it appear selfish and naïve. I imagine that this is the opposite intention of writers. There are other characters that portray this message more effectively throughout the story though, thankfully. The story is successful at emphasizing empathetic emotions towards the revolutionaries. I wish the writing had been more heavily focused on these characters because they are the story in my opinion.

Bel Canto reminds me of Hotel Rwanda directed by Terry George. Hotel Rwanda is a biographical drama that follows the story of Paul Rusesabagina. Rusesabagina is a hotel manager who provided a safe house to over a thousand Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan genocide. Bel Canto shares a similar theme. Both films discuss a social issue in a life threatening situation. Hotel Rwanda is truer to it’s genre however. It is a biographical drama without the confusion of tonal intersections. I do not take issue with tonal intersections if it is done well but I feel that, in the case of Bel Canto, these moments were not true to the state of the characters.

Bel Canto exhibits an interesting discussion. It does not emphasize good versus evil but rather tries to make the viewer empathize with all of the characters. The complexities that the issues presented were realistic but I felt that the comedic moments were not. Bel Canto is 102 minutes long. It is rated 14A for violence, profanity, and sexual content. Unfortunately, I would not recommend this film. There are many films that accomplish the same goals that are far superior in terms of the overall quality of the story. 

Calgary Showtimes: Bel Canto >


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