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Jacob van Oppen, the former strongest man on earth, and his manager Orsini, who calls himself "the Prince", make a good living by traveling around small South American towns and organizing wrestling exhibitions. Arriving in Santa Maria, they are met with uncommon enthusiasm, the local newspaper wants to sponsor the fight, helping hands placard the town with posters, and an open call is made for a worthy adversary. Ever so resourceful, Orsini knows how to find the right combatant, but fishing in Santa Maria could lead to a bigger catch than he'd hoped for. Written by
Warsaw Film Festival
Fabulous--literally--hints of fable, a deep and subtle friendship, and a colorful world...great!
Bad Day to Go Fishing (2009)
What a terrific movie. It's filled with a slightly improbable, likable, colorful quality you have to watch even if you don't quite care. But you do eventually care. You want these quirky main characters to somehow succeed. Even if you don't know how they can do that.
It's set in South America, but in an unanchored place called Santa Maria. (Could be anywhere, but much of the filming took place in Uruguay.) The main two characters are a pair of scam artists with good hearts and somewhat simple methods. One is an impresario with a flair for convincing people of things. The other is an aging wrestling champion from Germany (of all places--this is Uruguay, right?). And so the two of them enter this town with their usual plan.
Except that their method of having a show and winning a finale match-off with a local big man wrestler gets off track when the challenger is a seriously huge and buff young man. And he can't be bought off.
This is enough, but it hardly does justice to the huge array of really convincing and slightly exaggerated figures. There is the newspaper man, wise and quickly savvy to what's going on but willing to let it unfold on its own. There is the first challenger, who turns out to be perfect, and a drunk. There is the woman who wants to get married above all and needs the money.
There is the town itself, filled with nostalgia--it feels like it's set in 1970, maybe, with old cars and old ways, and no cell phones or modern connections that might change the feel of it all. There is the idea of a strong man and wrestler in the first place, played by a rather woeful drunk himself. And there is the impresario, played brilliantly by Gary Piquer. He holds it all together, sad and wickedly charming and seemingly intelligent. He seems to have a good heart and yet he's scamming the town. And maybe (at times) leading on his main attraction, who also is his best (and only) friend.
In fact, this becomes more and more a movie about the relationship the two traveling men have together. It takes a turn, convincing and emotionally satisfying, at the end. There are shades (in the most abstract way) of how the two leads related in "Midnight Cowboy," so that it's not the circumstances that win the day, but these two flawed and beautifully interesting people.
This movie took me by surprise. I'm not sure why it gets so many low ratings. My suggestion is to go into it without expectations, and to let the characters slowly build. And to enjoy the scenes--the set design, old cars, and general lost in time quality is great all by itself.
This is one of the best movies I've seen in awhile. Give it shot!
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