A BETTER LIFE
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
After bouncing around different genres – including the teen sex comedy, an epic fantasy and a vampire romance – Chris Weitz takes things down a notch and tells a more grounded film. “A Better Life” follows a Mexican immigrant worker named Carlos (Damian Bichir) who is trying to raise his son properly in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, his son is getting mixed up with the wrong crowd at school.
Carlos believes that his problems will be solved if he buys a truck to enable him to do more work. However, when his truck is stolen, he goes on a mission to take back what is his. In a strange way, this mission brings him closer to his son while jeopardizing his life in America.
I can appreciate what Weitz is trying to do – and trying to say – with “A Better Life.” The movie does show the tenuous plight of the illegal immigrant worker in America. It also shines a spotlight on the dangers the children of these workers are in when left to some of the unsavory people in the public school. These are true points and important things to say. However, Weitz slouches through much of the first half with faux sympathy, allowing the characters to do things that are, quite frankly, stupid.
The film picks up in the second half when Carlos goes on a search for his truck. It is in this time that he and his son find bonding moments. Because the son wants to help Carlos, they both have a desire to be together, which seems to be a first in their relationship. It’s also tragic that only in a vigilante sense can Carlos prove to be a role model for his son.
These are sad, tough moments to watch, and they really set the stage for a dramatic punch. However, when that punch does come, it’s far too predictable and mundane to carry my interest through the rest of the film. Ultimately, “A Better Life” pitters out near the end and falls right back into the cliches it suffered from in the beginning.
The DVD comes with a commentary by director Chris Weitz as well as a slate of deleted scenes, which also feature Weitz’s commentary. Finally, there is also a music video “Jardinero” by Ozomati.