In 2008, I unexpectedly ran into actor Benjamin Bratt (see “Unknowingly Starstruck by Benjamin Bratt” ) at L’s Caffe.
Well, it happened again last Friday night.
This time, I accidentally ran into him at 1:00 a.m. on Howard Street, where he was chatting with a producer after the opening of the movie, La Mission, in which he starred and his brother, Peter Bratt, directed. And, this time, I had an opportunity to chat and get a photo with him.
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In, La Mission, Benjamin Bratt plays Che Rivera, a man whose violent temper and alcoholism resurfaces and nearly destroys him when he finds out that the son he’s proudly and single-handedly raised after his wife’s death, is gay.
I loved this movie, for several reasons (not necessarily in the following order).
(1) To me, La Mission, is a “male journey” film. And what better way to send Che on his journey than by forcing him to deal with homosexuality – the antithesis of masculinity to a man who seems to value masculinity above all else – in someone he loves. But the harder he clings to his beliefs about masculinity, the more he loses: his son, the budding romance between him and his neighbor, Lena, his grip on his alcohol recovery, and himself. Which means he’s forced to look at himself and his actions – and make some changes if he hopes to recapture his son, his self, and his life.
(2) Che’s character. What makes Che’s character work for me is his complexity. At face value, he’s machismo personified. But underneath every outward display of machismo, his actions, body language, voice, etc. express his true feelings and the fact that he cares, oftentimes deeply, even if he can’t express what he feels or if he expresses his feelings in ways that give the impression that he could care less.
(3) The romance. The romance between Che and Lena is great. The sexual awareness, the nervousness, and the sexual tension between them is at times sweet (remember your first date with someone you liked a lot?), at other times erotic (remember when you were super attracted to someone but tried to act normal?), and at other times sensual (remember when you made love to someone slowly, taking time to explore every inch of their body?). My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of the romance. Encore, encore!
(4) The ways of the alpha male. As a romance author who loves alpha male heroes and finds the way men interact with others intriguing, I loved the male bonding scenes because they seemed so … well … male.
For example, there’s a scene where, shortly after Che finds out his son is gay, his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Dee, shows up at Che’s job. He asks Che if Che’s had a drink.
“Nah, I didn’t,” says Che.
“That it?” Che sounds irritated and impatient.
Dee pauses, then he says. “Yeah, mother f**ker. Sh*t. I gotta work.”
Dee cares. Che cares. And they show it in that indirect and mysterious male way.
Then, there’s a scene where Che’s friends are playing basketball and he joins them for the first time since they’d pulled him off of his son, whom he was beating.
Che walks up to the friend he’d threatened to hurt if he didn’t get away from him and says, “Yo man, are we cool?”
“You know it’s all good,” says his friend.
And they do the guy-handshake-one-armed-hug-and-slap-on-the-back thing, then play ball. Apology made and accepted, in that oh-so-male way.
But it’s not just with the guys. One time, that male communication style is obvious in Che’s interaction with Lena, when she prepares to tell him how much his son needs him.
“Can I say something to you?” Lena asks.
“It’s a free country,” Che says with shrug before he looks away as if he has no interest whatsoever in what she has to say. And yet he remains on the stairs, waiting for her to speak.
Haven’t we seen similar examples of this behavior in romance novels?
(5) Latino culture. I love the fact that this movie was shot in The Mission District of San Francisco, where I live, and that Latinos from the neighborhood appeared in the film. And the fact that it was an independent film produced by those familiar with the culture, insured it did not exploit the culture. For example, gang activity was woven into the story as a facet of life, not as THE way of life of most residents. And Che’s reaction to Jes’s homosexuality seemed realistic, as opposed to the instant acceptance of a Hollywood movie.
(6) Benjamin Bratt is H.O.T. In every scene. Need I say more?
So, highly recommend this movie and have already seen it twice – and I plan to show my support by seeing it again. For, the better the movie does, the more theaters it will appear in.
Want to see it for FREE? If so, leave a comment here, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for two FREE tickets to see it at a theatre near you!
And, for more information, don’t forget to check out www.lamissionthemovie.com.