All Inclusive

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Families have been fodder for movies since their inception and while the idea hasn’t been original in a long time, some films have the power to, if not to transcend conventions, then at least do it well. All Inclusive (2008) fails at the former and barely succeeds at the latter.

The film is about an upper-class Mexican family vacationing at a resort near Mayan ruins. While the family is having or at least pretending to have a good time, Gonzalo (Jesus Ochoa) receives very unfortunate news; he is about to die from an illness. Scared and resigned, he flees into a nearby town while the family slowly begins to unravel under the weight of its willful blindness to each other.

At first, the film starts out strong; after all, it isn’t everyday that the lives of upper-class Mexicans are explored in great detail instead of the same old viewpoint of the poor or those about to make the treacherous journey north. For once, desert and the familiar sights and sounds of border towns are dispensed with and replaced with idyllic beaches and later on a hurricane, which does not help matters as the film progresses.

While Gonzalo is filled with guilt and a weakening sense of loyalty to his wife, their children have their own problems to face, from sexual confusion to alienation. But, of course, admitting to their failures or frailty is forbidden as this is supposed to be paradise on Earth. That is not a unique theme, but the director, Rodrigo Ortuzar is able to show their disintegration gradually. Interestingly enough, part of the film also delves into letting go of one’s inhibitions and let their true selves come out.

However, at the same time, the film does a 180 by the last half of the film. Would any husband abandon his family as soon as he found out about a terminal illness? The answer is obviously no, but would any man refuse the temptation to bed a younger beautiful woman if he had the chance? God no, this is Latin America baby. While Gonzalo is coming to grips with his own mortality, other feelings also surface such as the faint idea that his whole life at this point is a massive mistake; his children don’t appreciate him and his wife is increasingly fed up with his meekness.

Conversely, Carmen, (Valentina Vargas) is also unhappy with her life as nothing more than an ignored mother and while she also entertains the idea of adultery, that is shelved at the last minute because of good old guilt.    The children are also focused on as they have their own issues from the lighthearted to the more profound.  The two daughters have a barely disguised dislike for each other and their moments alone together were serviceable if not outstanding. The son, Andres (Jesus Zavala) has his quest to bed an older women played by Penelope Cruz’s sister, Monica Cruz. Much of the scant humor in this film comes from his awkward interactions with her via some social networking site and his inability to control his ahem, passions. That is probably the only aspect of the movie that is handled truly well.

By the end of the film, the father returns with a sense of shame and some slight hope. This is where the film completely falls apart. First off, there is a hurricane en route and this forces the family to huddle around in a single room which provides a convenient venue to vent their feelings.  Secondly, was it really necessary to synchronize the thunder strikes with sharp insults or confessions? Thirdly, Camila (Martha Hirgareda) literally states “Why must we keep inside what hurts us the most?” Thanks for the explanation, Einstein, I had no idea what the movie was until your moment of clarity. Then, the icing on the cake was the end, when Gonzalo, seemingly defeated, sits alone on the beach with the hurricane in full force. That is, until Camila walks to him and hugs him with and the speakers in the theater bellowed with uplifting music and of course the ending is an unbelievably good one.

As for the acting, everyone was solid throughout and Jesus Ochoa is great at being a pathetic middle-aged, disease-ridden wreck while Valentina Vargas is a good candidate for Latina MILF of the year. Aside from her heavenly physique, she sure can play the role of an unhappy mother well.  But even that can’t save the film from turning into a hug fest by the end and yours truly was brought to the brink of violence with the closing line, “Next time we go on vacation, lets not go when its hurricane season”.