Is an anagram for label.

Is an anagram for "label".

Unfolding almost entirely over the course of one day, Bella, simply put, tells the story of a waitress (Tammy Blanchard) and a chef (Eduardo Verástegui).  Blanchard has an unexpected secret, one sure to upend her struggles to get her life on track.  I liked that this tack wasn’t one of the typical strains of “life spiraling out of control leading to drugs and prostitution” or “prodigy of some sort held back by society/family/herself”.  Instead, Blanchard is just a normal person attempting, like most people, to get some control over her life.  Verástegui has a secret as well, one that explains how he went from highly-prized soccer prospect to an amazing chef who holds his brother’s restaurant together.

It is a sweet little movie, but it fails to rise to the next level.  It seems like it wants to emphasize the importance of moments.  Either the subtlety in Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, Patrick Million, and Leo Severino’s script passed me by (certainly plausible!) or needed a more coherent vision of the impact of a moment.   I thought Verástegui’s backstory was particularly well done.  And yet he turns out to be a relatively uninteresting character.  Sort of how I imagine a male in a Harlequin novel would be: Latin, handsome, a good cook, loving family, a mysterious past, generally speaking a manly man, with a sense of right and people’s feelings.  He ends up being more like a guiding angel to Blanchard than an actual person.  Tammy Blanchard, by the way, looks a heckuva lot like Norah Jones.  For whatever that’s worth.  I kinda liked her character, perhaps especially because I think in the hands of lesser filmmakers she would have been pretty annoying.

The ending felt a bit inorganic.  Not necessarily that I didn’t believe that’s where the characters were going.  More that it felt sort of tacked on.  I wonder if ending the movie a scene earlier would have improved it, ending on a note of optimistic uncertainty rather than the more complete resolution it currently has.  The upside of the current ending is that allows for both main characters to be each other’s salvation, but again, it feels weird that a three minute epilogue should carry that much weight in the movie.

Bella won the People’s Choice award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, which is an impressive pedigree, as the award has been bestowed on some rather well-regarded, if diverse, films.  And Ali Landry shows up for a scene, so there are certainly indisputable reasons to see the movie.  It is certainly decent, so I wouldn’t not recommend it, I’m just not sure I can think of many times I’d active recommend it.

Three Stars (7.4 on imdb, 46% on RT, 3.6 on Netflix)

Trailer after the jump (note, it gives away a few things I purposely left out):