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The Dancer Upstairs

(with a four star performance by Javier Bardem)
Starring: Javier Bardem, Laura Morante, Juan Diego Botto and Elvira Minguez
Directed by: John Malkovich
Based on the novel by: Nicholas Shakespeare
Rated: R

The Dancer Upstairs is thespian extraordinaire John Malkovich's first directorial soirée, and it's a winner. Of course the man was extremely clever and cast a highly intelligent actor in the lead position for a highly intelligent script; one Javier Bardem.

Story goes…somewhere in the bowels of Latin America a revolution is boiling beneath the surface. They attack and leave cryptic messages as to their mission of rule. The violence is escalating and one detective is scurrying to discover the gorilla rebels' leader and sever his chokehold before it is too late.

The officer, Augustin Rejas (Javier Bardem), is a solemn fellow. He too is boiling within. His home life is a bit off and as an honest man, an ex-attorney, he became tired of freeing scum. He decided to turn to the field of policing to appease his soul.

But his new journey is a street filled with potholes. He must face crooked politicians, evil rebels that actually use children and animals to punctuate their points in the most gruesome of ways imaginable, and continual suspicions from his superiors.

While the officer plods along on a tiny budget and under constant surveillance, he finds a small pocket of sanity at his daughter's ballet teacher's (Laura Morante) side. His wife, a material self-centered gal, hardly notices the man - so it's only natural he should seek a cuddle woo-woo elsewhere.

As his country falls under full scale gorilla siege and each second is becoming more intense, the officer may be letting his heart hide a truth he should have seen, maybe would have seen, a long time ago…

Javier Bardem is one of the handsomest men I have ever seen; complete with that late-night stare and manly man accent a girl would cause rumors over. He can also act. In fact he could tell a whole story with nothing more than a twitch of an eyebrow! In The Dancer Upstairs he holds great silences at his command. He is truly mesmerizing. His "American" breakthrough role in Before Night Falls didn't really change much for him here - but hopefully now that he's learned English (giving directors no excuses) we will see his glorious multiple talents a bit more.

Malkovich's tale moves slowly and often the violence will churn your stomach. But, the director needed to get into this Rejas' soul and we needed to believe his position. The cinematography and the well choreographed scenes accent the subtle awakenings and actions beautifully. Hard work went into getting the feel of the revolution and the team has delivered a chilling account to be sure.

The Dancer Upstairs is highly recommend this for any film viewers willing to give a script time to unfold —- of course as directed by a seasoned consummate actors guiding one of our greatest living actors, the wait for the plot is delectable!

Snack recommendation: Flan and Espresso


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