TELENOVELA WATCH: AMORES VERDADEROS, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR, AMOR BRAVÍO, ROSA DIAMANTE

AMORES VERDADEROS
Watching the second week of AMORES VERDADEROS (weeknights at 9 p.m. ET on Univision), I found myself enjoying the interaction between the protagonists while not much caring for the overall story – a not too uncommon response for me with telenovelas. The poor-meets-rich intertwining of the simple farmer turned bodyguard, José Ángel (Eduardo Yáñez), and his wealthy employer and charge, Victoria Balvanera (Erika Buenfil), is obviously something that’s been done many times before, but it is being played here with considerable charm and good humor by Yáñez and Buenfil. Victoria, a classy, cultured woman who reads Marguerite Duras and shuts herself in a private studio to paint while listening to Mozart, endearingly juvenilized into a mischievous, giggling schoolgirl as she snuck a peek at José Ángel in the shower. In a parallel scene in a later episode, José Ángel accidentally wanders upon Victoria while she is in the bathtub. He exits unnoticed by her only to have to then conceal himself in her bedroom from her husband Nelson (Guillermo Capetillo), attempting to hide his hulking frame at the side of the bed and behind some curtains before finally taking a leap from the second story to the ground below.

The novela is a bit of a hodgepodge tonally, a gamut from intentional humor like those scenes described above or a comic relief chubby maid who tosses herself on the floor in a faux orgasmic spell upon seeing the younger of the new bodyguard hires, Francisco (Sebastián Rulli); but then, shifting a few scenes later to a serious bulimia storyline involving Victoria’s daughter Nicole (Eiza González) and a spousal abuse scene of Francisco’s sister Beatriz (Susana González) getting slapped in the face by her husband Leo (Julio Camejo) who then forces himself upon her in the bedroom.

And then, there are the scenes that seem to be played seriously and humorously at the same time, like the second kidnap attempt of Victoria. There is an element of suspense and danger as she is bustled away with a gun pressed against her ribs, yet, that suspense is undercut by the accompanying scenes featuring the very funny image of José Ángel giving chase through a crowded mall in just his boxers.

The villains in the second week haven’t gained much dimension or interest – they are still terribly banal, after plotting two kidnappings of Victoria only to be foiled by José Ángel, the suggestion at the end of the week is they will now target her daughter Nicole (Eiza González) instead. Their motive at this point still seems to simply get rich through collecting the ransom. Hopefully, there’s another layer to their villainy yet to be revealed to make them more intriguing. The villains on AMOR BRAVÍO are similarly driven by dull greed, but Leticia Calderón and César Évora play their parts with such an entertaining Mephistophelian aplomb, they manage to be enormously fun in spite of the uninspired character motives. AMORES VERDADEROS doesn’t seem so lucky so far with the stone-faced menace of Francisco Gattorno’s bodyguard Salsero and the screeching tantrums and phone-throwing of Marjorie de Sousa’s model Kendra.

One more aspect of AMORES VERDADEROS that annoys me so far is the whopping coincidences tying the two newly hired bodyguard protagonists to the millionaire patriarch, Aníbal Balvanera (Enrique Rocha), the father and grandfather of the women José Ángel and Francisco are protecting. It was revealed this week that José Ángel’s wife, Cristina (Mónika Sánchez), is the secret lovechild Aníbal had with the only woman he ever loved, Candelaria. It was also revealed that Aníbal’s longtime mistress, Paula (Silvia Manríquez), is the mother who abandoned Francisco and Beatriz and their gambling-addicted father when Francisco was a kid.

UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR
Only two weeks remain of UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision) and the final major story threads are moving into position to be tied up. This week saw Luciana (Zuria Vega) and Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto) both finding themselves drawn toward urchin Mateo after a bee attack (rendered with some pretty dodgy CGI) landed him in the hospital, though they are still unaware he is their son, Rodrigo Jr., stolen five years ago by Roselena (Laura Flores) and Gala (Jessica Coch). This instinctual drawing together and bonding of blood relatives before they are even aware of the relationship between themselves is a recurrent theme on telenovelas. A golden medallion given the newborn Rodrigo Jr. still in the boy’s possession and a hospital identification bracelet kept as a souvenir of her crime by Gala that is now being held onto by her maid, Brigida (Lucía Guilmáin), look to be two of the final beats to be played in the resolution of the story.

It remains to be seen how much further from sanity Roselena will stray and whether she will become more dangerous. After locking her daughter Jana (Ilean Almaguer) in her room, Roselena met her daughter’s would-be suitor, Lorenzo (Erik Diaz) and tossed boiling coffee on him. Later, she cruelly berated her son Patricio (Brandon Peniche), in effect saying the accident that caused his paralysis was some kind of divine punishment. Finally, Roselena fired her loyal nana, Matilde (Maricruz Nájera), who was like a mother to her, because of her complicity in a secret rendezvous between Jana and Lorenzo.

AMOR BRAVÍO
This week on AMOR BRAVÍO (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision), an avalanche of revelations was heaped upon the characters making for an eventful week, though maybe a bit too busy -- the novela played a number of its plot cards this week, perhaps ending one game and preparing to deal a new hand.

Camila (Silvia Navarro) was told her soon-to-be ex-husband Alonso (Flavio Medina) was sleeping with her sister Ximena (Laura Carmine) and responded with a cross to her sister’s kisser followed by a hair-pulling scuffle in the hay. Camila read her uncle’s letter to his supposed son Daniel that revealed his attempt to protect her from the nefarious plots of Alonso and Dionisio (César Évora) and she finally understood why her uncle uttered Alonso’s name on his deathbed. After Leoncio (José Elías Moreno) shot Daniel (Cristián de la Fuente) and Pablo (Eddy Vilard), Camila, in expressing her concern over Daniel, basically outed her love for the chauffer, much to the ire of Dionisio who now realizes Daniel betrayed him and vows he will not leave the hospital alive. And in a plot turn out of left field, it was revealed to the audience, but not to the characters that matter, that Pablo is the biological son of Camila’s uncle Don Daniel. About the only secret to be revealed to Camila and the villains from those initially set up by the novela is the true identity of Daniel, who is still masquerading under the fake name of Andrés.

ROSA DIAMANTE
The Telemundo telenovela ROSA DIAMANTE (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET) has careered off the rails of late, a proliferation of far-fetched plot turns accompanied by or attributable to a noticeable decrease in the collective intelligence of the characters. Rosa (Carla Hernández) is still behind bars, and only after she is convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison does anybody bother to investigate the trumped up and forged evidence against her. Andrea (Sofía Lama), who knows she has a stalker and narrowly escaped being pulled into his van during a kidnap attempt, inexplicably is lured alone into the abandoned theater and right into his clutches – she is now being kept in a giant bird cage, dressed up as a Juliet Capulet to her captor’s Phantom of the Opera. Nobody who cares about Rosaura (Lupita Ferrer), including a doctor once in love with her, shows any concern over her continual sedation at the hands of a crooked nurse hired by Miss Margaret (Luciana Silveyra) to keep her out of the way. Lucía (Mariana Villalvazo) gets a job as an escort (what else?) with predictable results, then is beat up by her father causing her to lose the baby neither the characters or audience was aware existed. And, worst of all, the male protagonist, José Ignacio (Mauricio Ochmann), looks to be falling for the sudden overnight conversion into caring concerned mother by his spoiled ex-fiancée Bárbi (Begoña Narváez), even going so far as to agree to marry her to give his baby son a decent home.

There’s also an insufficiently motivated character redemption involving Ramón (Néstor Rodulfo) which annoys, though it is made bearable by the pleasant growing affection between him and the maid Chole (Ofelia Guiza). Also, Rosaura’s feigned blindness was revealed to the rest of the characters resulting in pretty much no pay off at all, a remnant from the first version of this novela that probably should have been dropped entirely, never really making much story or character sense and culminating with a damp squib resolution.

RELATED:
- TELENOVELA WATCH: UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR's Final Weeks, BELLA CALAMIDADES Comes To U.S.; Plus, AMOR BRAVIO, ROSA DIAMANTE & EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA (October 13, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: CORAZONES BLINDADOS Premieres Monday! Plus, ROSA DIAMANTE, AMOR BRAVIO & UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (October 20, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMOR BRAVÍO Censorship, Final Stage Of UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR, PASION PROHIBIDA Casting Controversy (October 27, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: ABISMO DE PASIÓN Finale; AMORES VERDADEROS Premiere; Five Years Later On UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (November 3, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMORES VERDADEROS First Impressions; AMOR CAUTIVO Preview (November 10, 2012)

R.G. Morin writes a regular 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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