|Vincenzo Amato and Jessica Whitney Gould.|
Strangers in a strange land
A gray, blustery New York fights two couples' every effort to fall in love in the thoroughly charming anti-romance romance "Once We Were Strangers."
By JOSHUA TANZER
The swarthy, headstrong, passionate Antonio is about to sweep Ellen
off her feet because she reminds him of the Virgin Mary and he means
that in the sexiest possible way. They will go "al mare" ("to the sea"),
announces the dashing Italian as he drives her off in his convertible from
downtown New York for a romantic walk on the beach.
Standard romance-novel stuff? Not exactly. When they get to the
shore, they hate it. And Ellen, who finds Antonio irritating anyway, is a
practical, down-to-earth type who's not looking for any
rash, whirlwind romance. ("You are beautiful!" says he. "You're an idiot,"
says she.) If these two are made for each other and
that's far from evident it's going to take something other than a
dime-novel setting to make it happen.|
And that's a lucky thing, because around the film's four main
characters is a concrete, workaday New York, not the electric city of Spike Lee or
the dramatic city of Woody Allen. It seems to be summer, but the sky is sidewalk-gray and
rainstorms blow in on the whipping wind. What's nice about this approach
is that if there's going to be any spark between the characters, it's
going to come from them alone, not from the birds chirping in Central Park
or the sand between their toes. At one point the
outside world is doing so little for them that they block it out ("Out there it's horrible," says she) so they can gaze at each
other in their own tiny but momentarily perfect two-person space.
A side plot throws together Antonio's short, unassuming,
Indian-born friend Apu with a lovely woman who seems to be more than he
deserves and is horrified by his dank basement apartment. While this
relationship explores the character of impoverished immigrants struggling
to adapt to their new country, it also has something in common with the main
plot love has to bloom because of what's between the people
involved and not because of their florid surroundings.
|Ajay Nidu and Anjalee Deshpande.|| |
If this sounds like an unromantic romance picture, it's not at
all. The characters are full of charm, the story is full of
clever details, and the actors you might fall for them yourself.
But do they find love? Hmmm, good question.
|MARCH 9, 2000|
OFFOFFOFF.COM THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
Reader comments on Once We Were Strangers:
dvd? from steve, Jan 25, 2005
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