The Beauty of Bella

Rebecca Hagelin

11/15/2007 12:01:00 AM - Rebecca Hagelin

Rarely am I so taken by the beauty and power of a movie that I want everyone I know to see it. “Bella” is a film you must see.

The story (I won’t reveal too much, because I don’t want to spoil it for you) concerns a young soccer star whose career is abruptly cut short. He winds up working in his brother’s restaurant in New York City, where he befriends a struggling waitress. The story is rich in messages of redemption, friendship, sacrifice and hope. No wonder the Hollywood crowd is beginning to cut it to shreds.

“Bella” isn’t for the little ones. It deals with mature themes (and is rated PG-13) revolving around a fatal car accident, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and the subjects of abortion and adoption. But in a refreshing break from the status quo, “Bella” handles these topics in a moral and uplifting way.

The film is full of all the right messages about the character qualities that everyone should applaud -- honesty, devotion, family commitment, courage. It’s a masterpiece of cinematography, writing and acting. Director Alejandro Monteverde, and the outstanding actors Eduardo Verastegui and Tammy Blanchard, deliver the “feel good” movie of the year. The executive producer is Steve McEveety, producer of such blockbusters as “The Passion of the Christ,” the top-grossing R-rated film of all time, and the amazing “Braveheart.” I’m so impressed with the values, quality and message of Bella that I’m personally buying tickets for our high-school youth group.

Such a movie is all but verboten in Hollywood these days, with directors and producers competing to see who can come up with something “dark” and disturbing. Even a lot of “kid” films are filled with needless grotesque humor, sexualized images and smirking references. That’s certainly not the case with “Bella” -- which is all the more reason you should make a point of seeing it this weekend. This wonderful film has done very well at the box office during its first few weeks, but this weekend is critical if it is to survive through the blockbuster movie-going Thanksgiving weekend. Any films that don’t do well this weekend will be pulled from the theaters.

As you might expect, elitist movie reviewers have already been working to ensure that “Bella” gets overlooked, despite the fact that this film won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, one of the industry’s most important honors. Some, it seems, are even working overtime to make sure no one sees “Bella” -- its messages are too reflective of a worldview where people actually sacrifice for each other, find fulfillment in caring, and feel the joy of redemption.

The New York Times, for instance, calls it a “saccharine trifle.” The Detroit News says it’s as “simple-minded, heavy-handed and as subtle as a gorilla in a tutu.” Desson Thomson of The Washington Post tried a different tack. His review is titled “As Time Creeps By,” and it begins: “When you know, practically from the beginning, what’s going to happen at the end of a movie, what do you do with your time in between? Offer to buy everyone in the theater popcorn while you sit this thing out? Check cell phone messages? Catch up on lost sleep?” Which prompts me to ask: Did he wander into the wrong theater? Everyone I know who has seen the movie was completely swept up in the mystery and brilliance of this marvelous film. (READER NOTE: Usually, when The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Detroit News trash a moral movie, it’s code that you should go see it.)

Contrast these malicious reviews with others, and you see how determined some are to kill this life-changing film. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Mack Bates, for example, wrote: “This is, first and foremost, an actors’ showcase, and the entire ensemble delivers,” and Roger Ebert said it’s a “heart-tugger with the confidence not to tug too hard.”

The reviewer for The New York Times, interestingly, makes some surprising admissions in his negative account -- noting, for example, that “Bella” has a “bear-hugging embrace of sweetness and light” and that “the response to it suggests how desperate some people are for an urban fairy tale with a happy ending.” The response he refers to, of course, is the popularity of this magical film. It’s sad that this professional film critic has become so numbed by the drivel and cultural sewage produced en masse by the entertainment industry that he doesn't understand average Americans are crying out for media that offers “sweetness,” “light” and happy endings.

That’s why we need to vote with our feet -- and fill every seat of every showing of “Bella” this weekend. Go to bellathemovie.com/theater/ and see where it’s playing in your area, and take as many people as you can. In fact, you can do even more: Go to helpbella.com and “adopt” a theater as a fundraiser or event. With enough word of mouth, we might even be able to make it the top film going into the Thanksgiving weekend.

Don’t wait for the DVD, folks (although you should buy that, too, when it comes out). Go to see “Bella” on the big screen this weekend. Let’s get America to sit up and take notice.