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Holy overhyped movie. There is nothing really wrong with it, but there is no real reason to like it either. It could have been so much better. I am also not a fan of the way it just suddenly ends. I don't feel any emotional attachment to any of the characters and the movie wasn't really that compelling. It was a story about a girl who takes drugs over the border. "Blah."
Beautiful film
After Attack of the Clones came out there was some talk about the future of cinema being digital. Some speculated that in only a matter of years all films would be fillmed on High Def or DV, and that celluloid would be rendered obsolete.

I have to disagree. It's not the proliferation of digital that alarms me; it's the number of directors working without a tripod. Can anyone else think of a year that featured as many films shot with a jittery, handheld camera? Open Water, Friday Night Lights, Mean Creek, the list goes on and on. In fact, I would dare say that HALF of the films I saw this year were shot in the handheld style. It works for many of these films, surprisingly, but it got on my nerves in The Bourne Supremecy, and I'm quickly growing tired of this headache-inducing method.

I don't mean for that minor tirade in any way to detract from my opinion of Maria Full of Grace, a film that employed the aforementioned style, but didn't suffer any of the weakness of the format.

Maria (the unbelievably pretty Catalina Sandino Moreno) is stuck working in a factory in Columbia, dethorning roses. Her selfish sister has recently had a baby out of wedlock and expects Maria to provide when her child grows ill. The implication is that if any member of the family has a financial problem (recent unemployment, a bastard child) the rest of the group helps out. But Maria doesn't have any financial problems; she doesn't need any help. And she resents the fact that her work and wages go to a demanding sister who made bad choices.

Maria loses her job at the factory after vomiting all over some roses and subsequently finds out she's pregnant. Her boyfriend is a deadbeat, a kid really, more about getting drunk than being a father. While looking for work in Bogota she is approached by an acquaintance who offers her a job: running heroin to the Unites States as a mule. What follows is an entirely engrossing journey that is at times agonizingly suspenseful, grimly fascinating, and eventually hopeful.

In a scene reminiscent of the opening of Midnight Express, Maria is singled out for a search once she lands in New York. She has 62 thumb sized pellets of heroin in her stomach and she doesn't speak English. It is agonizing to watch her try to answer questions posed by the Customs Officials; she is obviously unprepared. Who are you staying with here in the States? Did you buy this plane ticket? How much did it cost? Maria, a smart girl who's in way, way over her head, does her absolute best to think herself through the situation.

And don't even get me started on the scene in which Maria consumes the pellets, after taking pills to slow her digestion and having her throat sprayed with antiseptic. Wow. Talk about enthralling. I found myself wondering if I could do it, and how many pellets I could hold down. And what are they dipping the pellets in before they give them to Maria? If someone knows, write and let me know.

Moreno, nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, is unbelievable attractive and endearing. She has a gorgeous smile, but you'll have to hit the "slow" on your remote because she only smiles about four times during the entire movie. I have to say, however, that as good as Moreno is, she isn't what holds the film together. It's so tightly written and constructed, another actress could have easily pulled it off. But Moreno is great.

The film isn't the downer you would think; it ends on a very redemptive note. I suspected that the subtitles on the DVD didn't entirely match the words spoken, but I no habla Espanol, so I'm not really sure. I found myself wishing I spoke Spanish so I could grasp some of the nuance that I knew I was missing, so I'm sure a Spanish-speaker would find this film even more rewarding than I did, and I loved it. One of the year's best.
I think its athentically good for a foreign film that uses other language to absorb you crucially, and makes you part of their own little world they artisticly developed. It is never dull nor a drag. Every scene seems to be essential in creating a peculiar but an intelligent picture of vivid characters and life itself as well.
Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola Vega, Virgina Ariza, Johanna Andrea Mora, Guilied Lopez, and Patricia Rae.
Written and Directed by Joahua Marston.
Rated R (for drug content and language).
Running time approximately 1 hour 41 minutes.

Josh Marston's Maria Full of Grace is a spectacular motion picture experience. The screenplay is wonderful, and the performances dazzling (especially from Catalina Sandino Moreno, who's now up for the Best Actress Oscar), and the film's subject is one of the most realistic and engrossing stories I've ever seen on screen. This is a film that should be up for Best Foreign Film, but for some odd reason isn't. I can only wonder why. **** (out of ****) A
When I first saw/heard of the movie, I thought it was probably had something to do with religion which kind of turned me off of it... then I heard it had subtitles and forget it! BUT then I finally saw a preview and put it on my list to rent. I just watched it tonight. Great movie. This is one that completely takes you into the movie. Through Maria you experience what it must be like to realize your destiny if you stay where you are - in a country not offering many opportunities, wanting better for yourself, for your children. I love movies that show a real perspective, one that I dont see everyday. Here you got to see the US through Maria's eyes...what it meant to her. It was done in a way Ive never seen in any movie. Knowing what she went through getting here, even though it wasnt her intention from the beginning to stay. When she was in made me wonder about the other stories - similar to Maria's. Others who Don Fernando had helped - people just wanting more opportunity than what they had - doing whatever it takes.
Is this not a foreign film? I guess not because I figure it would certainly have been nominated for an Oscar or something.

It was interesting and well acted. I loved the "feel" of the movie too.
I think I'm going to give up wirting reviews for every film I watch. I just don't have the time anymore. I'll post reviews for films I feel need to be reviewed. Anyways, I've gotta catch up.

Spellbound (Hitchcock 45)

Rating: 7.0/10
Maria Full of Grace: C+

Much like 2003's Lilya-4-Ever, a dark side of society is shoved in our face and the underground cult acts as a devourer of young teenage girls who seek a better life and act fooshily in desperation. Call me a cynical bastard, but both Lilya and Maria couldn't nudge out a single sympathetic feeling out of my cold dead heart. The 97% tomatometer was quite a shock to me especially due to the controversial topic, yet after viewing it's a no brainer why critics swallowed this film down (pun intended) because it takes a rather safe path in exposing such a dangerous procedure. Maria is a very well composed character and she is easy to get behind during her journey, but development wise, she's rather flat and well.... just "there". Don't get me started on her overweight friend who practically makes every scene she is in cringe worthy. A total waste of a plot device, and a very amauterish move by the director. The first half of the film was rather good, with an excellent build up and a series of tense moments properly executed in the way a real mule is handled. Though, the overdramatic conclusion ends on a sour note with many questions circling in my head with no sense of any answers coming out.
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