Demián Bichir has been nominated for Best Actor by both the Screen Actors Guild and the Independent Spirit Awards for his lead role as the illegal immigrant gardener in A Better Life. Oscar nomination next?
After playing in theaters this summer, the film is now out on DVD, Blu-Ray and Amazon Instant Video.
As Charlie Martin wrote in July when he reviewed A Better Life, the overall acting “was pretty amazing”:
The adults are actors who have been around in both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking TV and movies for years. Joaquín Cosio, who plays Blasco, is one of those character actors whose face will be familiar even if his name is not; José Julián, who plays Luis, is brand new, and pretty damn good.
Demián Bichir, who plays Carlos, is on a whole other level. Bichir is from a theater family – his father Alejandro is a very successful hyphenate writer/actor/director, his mother Maricruz Nájera is a very successful actress, and his brothers Bruno and Odiseo are themselves successful actors. Michael Caine famously advised that the hardest thing for an actor in movies is to play small enough in a closeup; as he put it, in a closeup, you don’t act, you just think, and the camera reads your mind. In one memorable scene, Bichir shows us silently, in one 30-second tight closeup, as a moment of happiness dissolves and he begins to think of a dangerous time coming up. If the Academy is watching, and a bigger name actor isn’t playing a mental patient or tragic leftist politician, that one scene should get Bichir one of those gold statues.
The fact that the screenplay surprised me every step of the way is a sign of how well-built it was. (The screenplay is by Eric Eason, “from a story by Roger L. Simon,” which is the Writer’s Guild negotiated solution for credit in a screenplay Eason based on a screenplay of Roger’s that had been in development off and on for years). Almost nothing was strained. I grew up around people like these; I knew everyone, and the street/California/Mexican slang/Spanglish dialogue was spot on as far as I could tell. If you speak Spanish, keep an ear on the dialogue when it’s in Spanish. (If you don’t, there are subtitles, and anyway probably 80 percent of the dialogue is in English. You’ll manage; don’t let the part in Spanish deter you.)
But if you do speak Spanish, keep an ear out; there are some little subtle points that really work. One of them that should have been somehow subtitled but wasn’t is what sounds like some kind of nickname Carlos calls Luis. It sounded like “Meeho”, and — sue me — I don’t change languages easily. My ear takes a few beats to go from one to another. I had to listen carefully to finally catch on that he was calling Luis “mi hijo” — “my son”. So here’s a free hint: once you realize this, it tells you a lot about Carlos.
In July, Roger discussed A Better Life on Hugh Hewitt’s talk radio show. Click below to play the audio from Roger’s interview, courtesy of Hugh’s Hewitt’s producer, Duane Patterson, and used with permission:
(7 minutes and 19 seconds long; 3.35MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this week’s show to your hard drive. And for our earlier Lifestyle podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)