A review of “Passionada” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *

Rating: PG-13 for some language, adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

 

 

They’re calling it the next “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, albeit one that focuses on the Portuguese community.  More Hallmark Hall of Fame than big fat Greek hit, “Passionada” is a love story of cheesy proportion that mistakes backhanded duplicity for burgeoning romance.

 Charlie Beck (Jason Isaacs) is a handsome drifter who wafts into the New England fishing community of New Bedford, Massachusetts to work the gaming tables and look up old friends.  An impromptu visit to a local nightclub alters Charlie’s cavalier attitude for good. One look at sultry Portuguese singer cum stubborn widow Celia Amonte (Sofi Milos) leaves Charlie hopelessly and emotionally adrift.

Charlie is determined to make Celia his own.  Her resistance to his less-than-masterful courtship feels painfully real (especially considering her responsibilities to her precocious 17-year old daughter), but acquires the sensation of melodrama as Celia continually spurns his advances. Charlie’s unorthodox wooing techniques include lying through his teeth to impress his lady-love, thereby gaining her trust and then lacking the balls to come clean when the situation demands candor.

“Passionada” attempts to serve up one too many dishes in its smorgasbord of a plot.  Single parenting, addictive gambling, and second chances are sparsely layered into the narrative, each worthy of exploration but insufficiently cultivated.  Kitschy sideline regarding teenage Vicky’s (Emmy Rossum) offer of matchmaking tips in return for card-counting lessons is pure celluloid. 

Moody Portuguese Fado tunes underscore the production, an unfortunate mismatch with the sappy proceedings. Isaacs (the best thing about “The Patriot”) has the decency to seem embarrassed about the project’s rent-paying, cable movie-of-the-week quality.  The camera worships Amonte, but she overplays the gravity of her role. 

Amateurish, clichéd, and blandly unappealing, I suggest passing on “Passionada”.