Mona found Ruben and Robert in an irrigation ditch after an immigration raid. When their parents couldn't be found, she wanted to raise them herself, which ended up causing problems in her marriage and eventually ended it. When the boys grew up, Robert was put in charge of the California ranch, but he was guilty of 'creative accounting', so Mona changed her will to leave Ruben everything. When Mona died and the new will was revealed, Robert was not happy about that ...
This movie was very hard to follow. It began with a parade, and then a flashback to the time when supporters of keeping the ranch open tried to stop foreclosure, which included trapping a bulldozer in a deep hole. Then more flashbacks to explain how events reached that point. Most of the movie consisted of Ruben and his business partner Lou being interviewed documentary-style, with flashbacks to the events being described.
Ruben brought his wife Laura and daughter Maria from Chicago, along with Lou (Nick later followed, though I'm not entirely clear on what his relationship with Lou was). Robert was having trouble in his marriage to Bonnie, and he was scheming to prevent Ruben from getting what was his, including housing for numerous immigrant workers. After Ruben found some of Mona's money which no one else knew about, his lawyer and best friend Eddie wanted to hide it from the IRS and invest it. And Judge Winton Myers was corrupt. There's not much more I can say without spoilers, but I wish someone would explain what happened because I still don't know.
Alan Arkin was pretty good, and great in a courtroom scene where he acted as a lawyer for himself and Ruben, very convincing even though he seemed to be some kind of blue-collar businessman in Chicago. Andy Garcia was good at times as Robert, who was kind of a snake. His performance as Ruben was nothing outstanding, but not terrible. As Ruben, he was best with his young son Julian and with Laura and Maria. Both characters seemed to have trouble making up their minds whether or not they had accents.
Joe Pantoliano seemed quite terrible at first as Eddie (in his first scene he couldn't stop smiling and he looked like an idiot), but later on Eddie went through a complete character change that was quite interesting. Still, he was called 'a weasel', and even the new Eddie fit that description.
I liked the scenes with Nick and Lou, but I'm not real clear on what happened. They were just funny. Nick seemed to be a hit man of some kind.
The movie would have worked better as a straight comedy. Once I finally had it figured out, I started enjoying it, but then it got strange and confusing again. One problem was the score. A lot of the music suggested zany comedy, but the movie got quite serious at times, too. It seemed there was no in-between, and it just wasn't that good when it was dramatic. Only once did I feel that switching the music back and forth like that was effective.
Some highlights that are not spoilers:
Ruben shows up when Robert is spending the night with a woman, and the woman thinks she has left Robert in the bathtub but doesn't know about Ruben. I thought her reaction to Ruben was great.
A woman knocks on the judge's door and sings a bawdy song to the judge, which the judge's wife loves.
It wasn't a total waste of time, but I could have been happier.
Eddie is missing but is found after a search, and he has shaved his head and says he is 'born again'.
Ruben pretends to be Robert near the end of the movie. I wish I had known because nothing was making sense at that point. Robert was in jail, and the other prisoners believed he was Ruben, which was a good thing because Robert they would have beaten up or killed.
Using a hidden camera, Eddie pretends to be a woman and gets the drunk judge to confess to his misdeeds that have caused Ruben and his supporters so much grief.
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