Director Alfonso Arau was deservedly praised for his terrific foreign language film "Like Water for Chocolate" a movie that celebrated the sensual effects of food on the libidos of men and women, and his new film, "A Walk in the Clouds" takes up where that movie left off. Uhhh, except that instead of a cast of unknown actors he's using people like Anthony Quinn, and AHEM! Keanu Reeves.
Yes, it's Keanu Reeves playing a wonderful, late 1940's romantic hero, as "A Walk in the Clouds" takes us on a lilting, breezy walk through the lovely Napa valley, where we watch as Keanu struggles to shake off his surfer speak and thrill the hearts of women everywhere. He plays Paul Sutton, a soldier returning from the Second World War. On his way home, he meets up with a beautiful Mexican-American woman on a train who promptly bumps into and throws up on him.
Of course, nothing gets the old fire a'pumpin' quite like the heady smell of vomit, and the two of them strike up a friendship. Paul discovers that beautiful Victoria is the daughter of a winery owning family, and that she has a big problem. She's returning home from graduate school after breaking up with her professor, who got her pregnant. Now, she returns in humiliation and is fearful that her father will kill her for disgracing the family. Suddenly, Paul has an idea. Why not act like HE'S THE HUSBAND?.
So, the conspiracy works, albeit with difficulty. Victoria's father, Alberto is furious at his daughter's choice of a Gringo as her husband, and just keeps making trouble for poor Paul, who has to keep ducking those probing questions.
Meanwhile, patriarch Anthony Quinn takes a shinin' to Paul, instructing him in the ways of the winery, and in the traditions of the family. Slowly, the family accepts Paul, and he begins to fall in love with Victoria, who in turn, wants Paul, BADLY! I mean, who wouldn't? He's Keanu Reeves! Gosh, do you think these poor, star crossed kids will wind up together?
In all fairness, "A Walk in the Clouds" is actually an enjoyable movie. That is, as long as you aren't cynical about period romances. If you are, then avoid this movie at all costs, as it's about as sickly sweet as a taffy pull. There are some reasons to see this movie, though: the loving, extended looks at the Napa valley are beautiful, and lend an other worldly quality to the production, and the performances are solid, with Keanu Reeves just fine as the supremely nice Paul.
However, the best reason to check out "A Walk in the Clouds" is for the performance of Aitana Sanchez-Gijon as the beautiful but troubled Victoria. She's shot in soft light throughout, and just smokes up the screen. I could mention the "grape-crushing" scene, but it was almost too much for me. Let's just say that I'm really going to taste my wine carefully from now on.
Copyright 1995 John A. Lavin
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