So far, one of the pleasures of AMOR BRAVÍO (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision) is it features a pair of strong, intelligent women at the forefront with Camila (Silvia Navarro) and her best friend Viviana (Fernanda Castillo).
There was a wonderful sequence early this week as Camila, at work tending to the cow in labor, stayed firm as her mother-in-law Isadora (Leticia Calderón) tried to guilt her into tending for her husband Alonso (Flavio Medina) instead, recuperating from his heart attack last week suffered in the company of a prostitute. Even better was when Alonso came out himself, clutching his chest, to try and pressure Camila and she again remained strong, eventually adding that she wants a divorce. It is hard to remember the last time the guilt-trip from a convalescent didn’t succeed in a telenovela, so needless to say, Camila’s resolve was a welcome surprise. Another nice scene for Camila came as she was expressing uncertainty about her future to Viviana regarding her possible divorce and the fact that the ranch, La Malquerida, really didn’t belong to her but to her missing cousin. Viviana tried to reassure Camila that her cousin would probably still allow her a place at the ranch to which Camila firmly stated, “No, I can only depend on myself,” a resolve of self-reliance often missing from these stories.
Viviana also more fully came into her own this week, first when she learned Daniel’s (Cristián de la Fuente) true identity and made clear her loyalties lie with her friend Camila and she would blow Daniel’s cover if he didn’t himself. A plot turn delayed that revelation, as Dionisio (César Évora) interrupted with a phony death certificate of Daniel to hasten Camila gaining full ownership of the ranch. In the conversation that followed, Viviana asked just enough questions to poke holes in Dionisio’s plot to steer Camila in the right direction, but without pushing her luck, realizing the potential danger.
The town’s priest, Father Lozano (José Carlos Ruiz), wasn’t so smart. He rashly confronted the villains about their fraudulent death certificate, revealing he knew Daniel was alive. Isadora quickly brought the stalking ruffian foreman of the ranch, Leoncio (Jose Elías Moreno), into their fold, offering him three million pesos to kill the priest. Leoncio rammed the priest’s truck off the road into a tree and left him for dead. Daniel and Camila came across the wreck and Daniel managed to encourage Camila into overcoming her fear of driving so she could go to the ranch to call an ambulance. When she returned with her medical bag, Camila and Daniel shared a few meaningful, romantic glances while attending to the injured priest, wonderfully inappropriate in context, but the kind of misplaced emphasis in a scene that’s part of the fun of these shows. They got the priest to the hospital, but I don’t imagine he’s long for this show.
Another plot device, a letter the priest was holding meant for Daniel from the previous owner of La Malquerida, Camila’s uncle, who left the ranch to Daniel, delayed from reaching Daniel for several episodes through frustrating and silly plot turns, mercifully, finally got in Daniel’s hands. Even more thankfully, he actually read the darn thing, which revealed Camila’s innocence and will hopefully serve to transition the Daniel character out of the thankless role of suspecting the innocent Camila and into the much more fulfilling role of protector.
UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMORThis week on UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision), Luciana (Zuria Vega) came face-to-face with her bogeywoman and the cause of most of the misery in her life, Roselena (Laura Flores), for the first time since Roselena’s crimes came to light. In a typical show of hypocrisy, Roselena acted penitent, asking Luciana for forgiveness, but Luciana was having none of it, saying “God can forgive you, because I don’t.”
Later, Roselena discovered text messages sent to her husband, Maximino (Roberto Blandón), from his mistress. When she confronts him, he made no effort to hide it. During their argument, we learn the last time Maximino and Roselena were intimate was in conceiving their teenage daughter. In another scene, Roselena says she gave Maximino three kids, anything else would just be lust.
Maximino is another interesting character in this novela, ostensibly a villain, but given some redeeming qualities to keep him complex. On the one hand, he is a Machiavellian businessman, tough and demanding in the boardroom, dismissive of the opinions of others, even those of his sons, and an outright crook who arranged the fraud that sent his innocent partner to jail for twenty years. He is abusive and cruel to his mistress Vicky (Sachi Tamashiro), whom he constantly demeans. On the other hand, he clearly, truly loves his family. He allows his children the freedom to make their own decisions, even if he disapproves, granting them independence. His frustrations with his wife Roselena are shown to be fairly well justified, his attempts at kindness and tenderness met with her frigidity, and yet, despite her madness, he still seems to love her. Most interesting of all, Maximino had no objection to Luciana, always treating her with kindness and respect, at one point, he even graciously sat her at the head of the family dinner table.
CORAZÓN VALIENTEThe last few weeks, CORAZÓN VALIENTE (weeknights at 9 p.m. ET on Telemundo) has veered off the rails for me, deteriorating from entertaining, guilty pleasure into just plain trash. What has worked on the novela from the beginning – the Willy (Fabián Ríos) and Samantha (Ximena Duque) pairing – still works. Their storylines are a bit repetitive at this point, but they are just fun to watch together because the actors have such a nice comedic rapport, a mutual joshing and playfulness that gives a lift to their scenes.
What has never worked on the novela from the beginning – the Juan Marcos (José Luis Reséndez) and Ángela (Adriana Fonseca) pairing – still doesn’t work. Separated now, they have each been given possible new love interests and if the novela would give those new pairings an honest go, I would actually welcome the change; but novelas are more often wedded to the initial pre-sold pairings, i.e. the ones we see blessed by the opening credits, so I still envision Juan Marcos and Ángela ending up together, meaning the new love interests will just be treated as complications rather than legitimate alternatives.
What once worked and has been wrecked over the past few weeks is the Miguel (Gabriel Porras) character, who left his brain and dignity in Colombia when he went to retrieve Fabiola (Brenda Asnicar), Juan Marcos’s switched-at-birth sister who Miguel predictably, immediately falls in love with. Tonally, his scenes of late have been a schizophrenic mess: one moment, in a rather disgusting scene, Miguel callously massacres a roomful of thugs he’s holding at gunpoint (I know, I know, like the Mickey Spillane parody dialogue in Vincente Minelli’s THE BAND WAGON, “Killers have to die!”), the next, he’s engaging in puerile, wacky hijinks with Fabiola or his male cohorts. Worse than the helter-skelter tone is when a scene is entirely tone-deaf, as when Miguel is bullying and threatening his college-aged rival whose sole crime, as far as Miguel knows, is he also has a romantic interest in Fabiola. The dialogue remains amazingly tin-eared, as when Miguel, searching for a missing Fabiola, lustfully drops that she is “21 but looks 15.” The grizzled Porras and the dewy Asnicar can’t help but give the pairing an unfortunate pervert uncle and his jailbait quality. Porras is a good actor, but he’s been dreadful of late – overselling everything like a maniac, overcompensating for the garbage he’s been given in the scripts. Asnicar makes matters worse by playing her scenes even younger than her looks.
EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZASeven weeks into its run, EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA (weeknights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Telemundo) remains a dull, tedious, humorless affair populated by unlikable, and more damningly, uninteresting characters. Some of Telemundo’s recent misses were at least bad enough to be entertaining; EL ROSTRO isn’t even that - the whole novela is flat and lifeless. As awful as I think CORAZÓN VALIENTE often is, it at least still has energy; EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA is a dead fish.
Telemundo’s decision to air the show in half-hour installments certainly hasn’t helped matters. EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA is a mystery novela meaning there is a ton of exposition that needs to be laid out - what crime supposedly transpired, the alternate scenarios of what possibly really happened, introducing witnesses and alternate suspects – and exposition tends to be very boring, the half-hour episodes mean it is taking twice as many nights as it normally would to dole out this exposition. But full episodes would do nothing to solve the heart of the problem for me which is that the intrigue just isn’t very intriguing.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.