The title of the novel and film, Bel Canto, is Italian for beautiful singer. It refers to the Italian-originated vocal style that prevailed throughout most of Europe during the 18th century and early 19th centuries. See more »
A wealthy man (Ken Watanabe) throws a house party for important people, also inviting a world-renowned opera singer (Julianne Moore) to perform.
Sadly, the places turns into a hostage zone, and there will be no easy solutions to end the conflict.
Also starring, as internationally diverse supporting cast of actors as possible. The only name most would recognize is Christopher Lambert. Yes, the original "Highlander". But the only really noteworthy performance comes from Sebastian Koch as the hostage negotiator.
Anyway, the Oscar season is ready to start soon, so "Bel Canto" is sneakig in early to get some attention before the possible heavy-hitters arrive.
I am surprised that, according to IMDb, it's not a festival movie finally arriving cinemas - because everything about it shouts "made for festivals", adding "Look how tasteful I am, surely you can not NOT admire me, now can you?".
Tasteful approach is a good idea because despite it being hostage drama, "Bel Canto" actually hides a comment on modern times' most controversial topic - the migrants flooding to Northern America and Europe.
Sadly, the mastermind behind the movie, the co-writer and director Paul Weitz has not been able or willing to add something interesting to ongoing discussion.
He is good with generic messages such as "can't we all just get along" or "let's give love a chance" which frankly aren't personal or intellectually intriguing enough to match the otherwise ambitious nature of the project.
There are people who certainly could pull this off, turning essentially banal messages into something grand thanks to heartful execution - somehow Michael Jackson with his over the top epic mid-1990's and 2000's ballads springs to mind. Maybe cuz "Bel Canto's" underlying theme is also how the power of music can unite people.
But Weitz is not such a crafty man. In his quest to create something serious and tasteful, he has also avoided anything that would make the watching, you know, exciting. "Bel Canto" is easily the most tedious hostage story that I can recall. (Except the surprisingly powerful finale.)
Following the story, it seems like the authors are striving for something "European" or by all means not "American", so there is almost no action or otherwise intense scenes which would create some suspense.
What we basically have is two groups of people hanging around in this big house, waiting for some resolution, and exchanging a dialogue or two here and there instead.
The restrained approach is not problematic in itself but there's not anything much deeper happening neither. We don't see different characters wrestling with messy feelings which would seem like an expected thing in a life-threatening situation; we don't see them going through emotional crisis; we don't see exactly how the captives' relationships with captors actually develop over time (although we see what they turn into).
Hell, we don't even see much of their everyday life, nor get the sense of how long the whole thing goes on, exactly. There's just a bunch of people hanging around, some of them pointing guns at others.
In short, the "tasteful" detached approach makes the forming of emotional bond with someone or the events in general difficult. I get it, every hostage movie doesn't have to have Samuel L. Jackson to up the "cool" factor... but there really should be more than this.
I have a gut feeling that Paul Weitz was just tired of being known for just lightweight entertainment but ambition to do something memorable doesn't necessarily translate to movie gold. Despite good intentions, "Bel Canto" doesn't satisfy.
Sure, the man is surely capable of offering something beyond lightweight entertainment ("Being Flynn", anyone?) but honestly, he was at his best with early, unambitious efforts "American Pie" and "About a Boy".
His brother and former creative partner Chris Weitz has had a somewhat better run becoming more "serious" filmmaker, with co-writing 2017's "The Mountain Between Us" and directing "Operation Finale" fresh in Netflix.
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