Saturday, September 1, 2012


This week on AMOR BRAVÍO (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision), Daniel (Cristián de la Fuente), taking on a new identity, landed a job on the ranch central to the novela, La Malquerida, and is stalking around, gathering intel, plotting his vengeance on the owner of the ranch, Camila (Silvia Navarro), who he believes was behind the plot to kill him.

The telenovela is treading tricky ground that comes as a result of utilizing the device of dramatic irony – the audience being aware of information a character isn’t - in this case, the fact Camila is innocent and that the plot against Daniel was perpetrated by Camila’s mother-in-law, Isadora (Leticia Calderón), and Isadora’s accomplice, Dionisio (César Évora).  In fact, the audience is put in the position of having to root against the hero as his plans for revenge against Camila are misdirected; in a way, there’s a risk of audience backlash because Camila’s integrity and goodness are too impeccable – her intentions regarding ownership of La Malquerida actually going above and beyond the requirements of her uncle’s will: if the missing Daniel is declared dead, Camila is prepared to leave the ranch to his widow and as yet unborn child, currently hanging onto life in an off screen coma.

For the story to work, the viewer is forced to attempt to see the world from Daniel’s point of view from which Camila appears guilty, setting aside the knowledge she is not – a difficult proposition.  Another problem from this type of plot construction: when the audience is aware a character is mistaken in his beliefs, it is difficult to keep that character sympathetic, and he can begin to seem dense to an audience who knows much more than he does regarding the characters and situations he is encountering.  It is terribly early in the telenovela – we’re only in the third week – to be risking a disconnect in the audience’s sympathy for the ostensible hero.

Another problem that can arise from this type of plot like is that it requires that information be doled out to the mistaken character in such a way that it can be continuously misconstrued – Daniel must continually overhear things that paint Camila in the least flattering light; and that piling on of misinformation can begin to strain plausibility after a while.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if AMOR BRAVÍO is able to circumvent these story pitfalls.  Perhaps Daniel’s plan for vengeance will help in that regard: aware that Camila is vulnerable because of her lack of amorous relations with her impotent husband, Daniel intends to seduce her, make her fall in love with him, and then, make her pay.  In telenovelas, when the hero attempts to enact this type of seduction vengeance upon the heroine, he has a tendency to hoist himself on his own petard, the plan invariably backfires and he falls in love with the target.

A similar piece of dramatic irony contributed to the separation over the past few weeks of the protagonists of UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision) as Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto) misconstrued the tenderness Luciana (Zuria Vega) showed Claudio Linares (David Ostrosky) as romantic, the audience knowing it to be filial.In the case of UN REFUGIO, the device is employed much later in the story, after the audience has already had a chance to identify with the hero and root for his relationship with the heroine, so while his wrongheadedness over these scenes is not necessarily easier to take (and Soto, never one afraid to be unlikable, really sells Rodrigo’s jealous fueled contempt for the kind Claudio), the audience is already invested in the hero discovering the truth and seeing the errors of his ways.  That is exactly what happened this week.

First, though, there was the hearing at which Claudio proved his innocence of the business fraud that landed him in prison for twenty years, a big set piece of impassioned arguments, one-upmanships and a pair of dramatic entrances including a wonderful one by crazed Roselena (Laura Flores), always seeing herself as her family’s savior and protector, attempting to ride to her crooked husband’s defense, much to the chagrin of his poor lawyer Oscar (Harry Geithner), who could only face palm in the background at the woman’s unhinged desperation which was quickly shutdown by the judge.

Last week, Rodrigo’s brother, Patricio (Brandon Peniche), learned Luciana was expecting Rodrigo’s child, a plot secret whose revelation I thought would be held from Rodrigo for a while, needlessly delaying the storyline; so I was pleasantly surprised this week when he just out and told Rodrigo Luciana was pregnant.  Rodrigo immediately travelled to Luciana’s town to confirm the news, and when he angrily confronted Luciana about her relationship with Claudio, she revealed not only that he was her father, but also, the nefarious role Roselena played in giving her away as a newborn and letting Claudio believe she died.  What followed was an extraordinary moment of supplication for forgiveness as Rodrigo, literally, fell to his knees before Luciana, begging for forgiveness for all the harm he and his family has caused her.  He then says he deserves what he has, to be married to a woman he despises, tortured, living by her side while always thinking of the happiness he left behind with Luciana.  Gabriel Soto was amazing in this scene, some of the best work I’ve ever seen him do, maybe the best.

It seems that major plot secret, Roselena’s crimes twenty years ago against Claudio and the newborn Luciana, is about to be put to rest now that Rodrigo is aware of the truth.  That plot point has basically driven the telenovela over the first hundred episodes, pretty impressive mileage.

As Fernanda (Aylín Mújica), the serial killer villainess of CORAZÓN VALIENTE (weeknights at 9 p.m. ET on Telemundo), engaged in a shootout with protagonist Juan Marcos (José Luis Reséndez) in last Thursday night’s episode, I suddenly came to the realization that the whole novela could be wrapped up and finished on Friday without much hassle.  CORAZÓN VALIENTE remains largely plot less – there is an accumulation of fresh incidents every week, mostly action set pieces that give the impression of movement, but with little of importance actually affecting the characters.  There is minimal regard for what happened before or what is to happen after – nearly nothing is set up, nothing develops, and nothing pays off.  The actions of the characters seem to have no consequences – villain Bernardo (Manuel Landeta) can grope and slobber over a tied up Samantha (Ximena Duque) one week and a few episodes later, is still waltzing into her home for the umpteenth attempt to manipulate her and his son Willy (Fabián Ríos).A car accident renders Willy blind; a couple weeks later, he has surgery and his eyesight is restored – the plotline moves the characters not one iota – their relationships still sit exactly where they were before the accident.  Worst of all, since the first week of the novela, Fernanda has wanted to kill Juan Marcos and Bernardo has wanted to bed Samantha – six months later, not a thing has changed on that front.  Distressingly, this realization that nothing of consequence actually happens on this novela, that there is no real plot, nothing that wouldn’t take more than a single episode to resolve, merely the piling on of incidents, also means the inverse is true – CORAZÓN VALIENTE might never end.

Another way CORAZÓN VALIENTE gives the impression of movement is by a constant influx of new characters.  The last couple weeks brought into the cast Brenda Asnicar (PATITO FEO), Daniela Navarro (RELACIONES PELIGROSAS), Angeline Moncayo (FLOR SALVAJE) and Jonathan Freudman (RELACIONES PELIGROSAS) – this thing is going to wind up employing more actors than DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

The most significant of the recent additions looks to be Brenda Asnicar as Fabiola, Juan Marcos’s true younger sister, having been switched after birth with Emma.  Obviously, she is intended as the love interest for Miguel (Gabriel Porras) as the couple already has a new love theme that plays on the soundtrack for their encounters.  I have to confess, I find the pairing awfully problematic due to the yawning gulf in the characters’ maturity levels.

Fabiola’s backstory implies that she was brought up in the jungles of Colombia, either in captivity or fighting alongside guerrillas or perhaps both, I confess I’m hazy on that plot point.  Raised in the jungles, Fabiola is uncouth and uncivilized, but feisty and able to defend herself.  She feels restricted by the amenities of the modern world – for example, she prefers sleeping on the floor to a bed (though, in a bit of novela absurdity, one of her first scenes upon moving into the Arroyo mansion was to flick on a television and marvel at how clear the picture was, a clumsily inserted plug for Dish Latino).

Miguel is now her bodyguard as a Colombian drug cartel is after Fabiola.  Miguel, the stud of this novela-land, doesn’t believe in love, as evinced by his casual sexual encounters with Natalia (Yrahid Leylanni) and Cecilia (Ahrid Hannaley), because his first love that he was assigned to protect was murdered.  In a very bizarre plot twist that seemed to go absolutely nowhere, Miguel discovered that first love, Alejandra (Carla Rodríguez), was alive, living as a drug-addicted high-priced prostitute.  He saves her, attempts to renew the romance, but she succumbs to drugs again and is shipped off to service the head honcho drug lord.

So now, Fabiola enters the picture and a week after her introduction, Miguel is having feelings for her.A man who has been shown willing to use sex to gain information from women is now attracted to a virgin he is supposed to be protecting.  Add to that mix the way Fabiola comes off less as a wild child from the jungles and more like a petulant teenager – or even worse, aconniving nymphet, with her cutesy disrobings in front of a flustered Miguel (at least four already by my count) and general lack of attire, continuous flirtations, running to his bedroom after a nightmare, getting sick eating a whole box of chocolates and wanting him to take care of her, even bathing with him present.  For me, the most cringe-worthy aspect of these scenes is watching Miguel’s juvenilized jealous reactions to college-aged Rodrigo’s (Jonathan Freudman) attempted courtship of Fabiola.  A man in his late thirties or early forties jealous of a college kid over the affections of a teenager – nothing distasteful there.


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 [email protected].

1 comment:

  1. Miguel is 35 and Fabiola is 21. what's the problem? There wouldn't be a problem even if Miguel was 55! Right? The only problem is that Fabiola looks and behaves like a 12 year old child. But that's her character and the point of this plot. And jealousy is not something special to teenagers! There isn't anything distasteful here. This plot raised the ratings a lot and this couple is one the most popular novela couples among the young viewers. The older viewers, well, are conservative about virginity. They can't let a virgin girl to choose her man, even if she is 21.