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TELENOVELA WATCH: Thoughts on AMOR BRAVIO, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR and POR ELLA SOY EVA

On AMOR BRAVÍO (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision), poor sap Alonso (Flavio Medina) saw his problems go from bad to worse this week.  Unable to consummate his marriage with Camila (Silvia Navarro) due to impotence, Alonso decided to try out some Viagra with a prostitute in a hotel room only to suffer a heart attack.  Needless to say, he lands in the hospital and all the sordid details are revealed to half the cast, including Camila.

Camila’s eyes had already latched onto Daniel (Cristián de la Fuente) in a telenovela cliché – the spying on a swimmer in a natural body of water, typically, as in this case, a pond.  Navarro played the scene with out-and-out lust, completely appropriate given what her character’s going through and it’s refreshing to see a woman’s carnal desires at the forefront of a story.  After witnessing Daniel’s dip, Camila immediately rushed to dish about the spectacle with her best friend.

Last week, I commented on some of the narrative pitfalls I thought the novela was skirting in regard to keeping the protagonist sympathetic while he was plotting revenge on the heroine who we, the audience, knows is innocent; well this week featured a simple and effective corrective toward keeping the audience on his side.  As Leoncio (Jose Elías Moreno), the thuggish foreman of La Malquerida, was preparing to beat his young niece Luzma (Mariana Van Rankin) for arriving home late, Daniel intervened, coming to the girl’s rescue, fearlessly standing up to the bully/abuser.  Also Daniel’s tact with Natalia (Florencia de Saracho), the secretary smitten with him who helped get him the job at La Malquerida, the way he nipped in the bud any misunderstandings regarding his feelings toward her, gently letting her down, also put his character in the best light possible.  I still find Daniel something of a cypher at times, though the novela may be moving to rectify this by giving him a pair of confidants – the town’s priest (José Carlos Ruiz) and Rafael (Alex Sirvent), who it was revealed is an old friend of Daniel’s.  Rafael’s interest in Camila romantically also opened up a nice dramatic angle, as he told Daniel he wouldn’t allow him to hurt Camila, who he is convinced is innocent, with the two men agreeing to search together for the truth of the who was behind Daniel’s misfortune.

AMOR BRAVÍO has also introduced some early conflict among the villains as Dionisio (César Évora), sensing Alonso’s weakness in controlling Camila, set out to romance Camila’s mother, Agustina (Olivia Bucio), arousing the jealousy of his partner in crime Isadora (Leticia Calderón).

UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR
On UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision), Rosalena (Laura Flores) made a full confession of her crimes of twenty years ago against Claudio, Aurora and the newborn Luciana, as well as the grisly cover up involving the desecration of a baby’s grave, to her family at an eventful dinner, in effect, seeming to bring that narrative of the deep dark secret to a close.  That secret largely drove the plot over the first hundred episodes.  In a wonderfully gothic scene that followed, Rosalena shut herself up in the Torreslanda chapel, kneeling, arms outstretched, before a painting of the Crucifixion, fervantly, obsessionally praying and then, literally prostrating herself, arms still outstretched to either side, in search of a cross of their own, as Mozart’s Requiem played on the soundtrack.

Another narrative thread opened up quickly after Claudio Linares (David Ostrosky) won his case, proving his innocence of the fraud for which he spent twenty years in prison.  The judge in the case awarded Claudio fifty percent of the Torreslanda business, which he leaves to his sole heir, Luciana (Zuria Vega), bringing her back into Rodrigo and Patricio’s sphere as she showed up in the Torreslanda building to sign the necessary paperwork and was given her very own office near theirs.

Meanwhile, Gala (Jessica Coch), who is spending a lot of time angrily muttering to herself lately, after a few episodes of furious explosions at husband Rodrigo, finally began to show a bit of villainous guile at the end of Friday’s episode, as she feigns illness, attempting to garner sympathy and concern from Rodrigo for his child that she’s carrying.

POR ELLA SOY EVA
Men impersonating women is a comedy staple that has always left me cold.  It’s a failing in my sense of humor which has prevented me from enjoying such acclaimed film comedies as SOME LIKE IT HOT, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, and TOOTSIE, movies I realize are adored by many, but leave me stone-faced.  It is a bias necessary to disclose before admitting I haven’t laughed much during the comedy telenovela POR ELLA SOY EVA (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Univision), in which Jaime Camil plays a man playing a woman.  I would never claim a comedic work is “unfunny,” merely that my own humor isn’t attuned to the work’s wavelength, and that’s the case here.

Camil’s makeup as Eva is fairly convincing, not to the extent I actually believe his friends and co-workers of many years and Helena (Lucero), the woman in love with him, wouldn’t recognize him, but that’s a leap an audience just has to make for the sake of the story.  I find the makeup a pretty big obstacle when Camil attempts to play genuine emotions of his character, I don’t think subtle playing really registers well through the Eva façade, though it is attempted from time to time.

Lucero is a joy to watch, as usual, though I’m not sure she isn’t miscast here.  Her charisma, good humor and energy suggest a fully realized, with-it modern woman – not the sheltered Helena.  I especially find the relationship with her relentlessly cruel and emotionally abusive father (Manuel Ojeda) unconvincing.  The villains are well-acted by Marcelo Córdoba and Mariana Seoane, but they are also terribly conventional and poorly motivated – the womanizing crook and the sexy vixen.

There is a great deal of misogyny portrayed by the male characters – overplayed I imagine so Eva can ultimately thwart it and the perpetrators can eventually see the error of their ways – but that doesn’t make it any easier to take, especially in the nightly format of a telenovela.  A side effect of this misogyny from the male characters is I find it difficult to care much for the novela’s subplots where these men who are jerks in the office become the central players.  I also wonder if there isn’t something inherently insulting in the novela’s basic premise in that it ultimately takes a man, albeit in female guise, to show the women in the office how to stand up for themselves.

RELATED:
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMOR BRAVÍO Premieres; Plus, CORAZÓN VALIENTE, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (August 18, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMOR BRAVÍO and UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR Updates; Plus, PREMIOS TU MUNDO (August 25, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: Dramatic Irony on AMOR BRAVÍO & UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR; Plus, CORAZÓN VALIENTE (September 1, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: Thoughts on AMOR BRAVIO, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR and POR ELLA SOY EVA (September 8, 2012)

R.G. Morin writes a weekly column for We Love Soaps, "Telenovela Watch: A weekly look at the world of telenovelas for non-Spanish speakers." For feedback or questions, you can email R.G. Morin   at argeemorin@hotmail.com.

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