What a prime story for a telenovela: Two crime families competing for dominance over illegal businesses is the background for romance for their firstborns.
As our story opens in Buenas Aires in 1940, Luca Onoratto is released from prison after serving three years for the murder of the twin brother of Don Carlo Paternostra, a crime he did not commit. His father, Don Lorenzo Onoratto, is murdered a scene or so later and Luca's mother, Alberta, decides to take the reins of the family business. Although most of the men scoff at this, she is far more level-headed than they as she lacks their hair-trigger tempers.
The succeeding episodes are filled with scenes long familiar to fans of mob movies: The restaurant whacking, the wedding massacre, the taping of a pistol in a hidden spot for future use, and the clandestine meetings where anything can happen. Novela viewers will not be disappointed because certain standard novela plot points are also present: The romance that is not approved by either set of parents, family secrets, paternity issues, disguises, madness, jealousy, and revenge. There is also occasional comic relief, especially in the brothel scenes.
Hmm... this also is beginning to sound like Shakespeare.
Unlike Shakespeare's most famous pair of lovers, Luca Onoratto and Maria Paternostra are adults who seem to know what they're doing. They are thwarted mostly by her father and his men in their attempts at elopement, but they are not giving up no matter what obstacle they find in their way, including the repeated misunderstandings.
Unlike Mexican novelas this one is very studio- and backlot-bound, but the period detail is excellent. Vintage cars, interior design, props (especially tableware and telephones), wardrobe, and coiffures are right out of old Hollywood movies. My main criticism is the scarcity of incidental music of the period that would play up the film noir aspects of the story (note the opening title music, which sounds like it comes from THE GODFATHER soundtrack).
The cast -- many of whom have Italian names -- is flawless. Gerardo Romano is the perfect Hollywood image of the Mafia don, complete with thick silvering grey hair, elegant suits, Italian accent, and gestures. Leonor Benedetto -- who looks here like a cross between Tallulah Bankhead and Joan Crawford -- gives us a Mafia widow you don't dare mess with. Laura Novoa has something of a Lois Lane look as Maria, who is as tough as her father, while Gabriel Corrado (who looks like Chris Noth with blue eyes) provides machismo and romance as Luca.
The plot thickens on Latelenovela Network, but if you can find the episodes online, this series is worth your while.
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