***/**** Image A Sound A
starring Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Chazz Palminteri, Anjelica Huston
screenplay by Robin Swicord
directed by Mira Nair
by Walter Chaw Sensuous and lush with a hint of Isabel Allende's magical realism in the bleeding of a man's broken heart and a string of rose petals trailing a line along the belly of a new lover, Mira Nair's lovely The Perez Family is all ripe colours, song, sex, honour, and dance. A long-lost father asks his wife upon their decades-long separation if their grown daughter remembers him: "She says she remembers dancing with you." In The Perez Family, that's only as it should be.
Dorita Evita Perez (Marisa Tomei) flees Cuba on a boat with lovelorn Juan Raul (Alfred Molina), the two of them feigning a marriage to ease their transition into expatriate life and out of a Miami holding area for Cuban refugees. But Juan Raul is in search of his own lost wife (Anjelica Huston), long gone to America and courted by kindly police officer Lt. Pirelli (Chazz Palminteri), while Dorita, so infatuated with the dream of America, searches for John Wayne in the swagger of a ridiculous rent-a-cop. Meanwhile, in hopes that the larger the family the quicker the release, Dorita "adopts" a hoodlum son, Felipe (Jose Felipe Padron), and a mad, mute "Papi" (Lázaro Pérez), and makes a living with the ever-devoted Juan Raul selling flowers on a busy "Little Havana" intersection.
A story of the new immigrant experience, the sometimes-arbitrary assignation of kinship, and the ways in which cultural diffusion can become arrested within insular societies, The Perez Family is what Nair's latest film (Monsoon Wedding) is celebrated for being: joyous. It is a story about the blossoming of two new relationships and the elegant death of a third ("I can't live in a dream anymore," says one ex-lover to the other), and Robin Swicord's sublimely romantic screenplay presents its flowery subjects with neither irony nor condescension. The film believes in its pocket epiphanies and its cast, led by a glowering Molina and an incandescent Tomei (who gained a good deal of weight for her turn as a lusty earth mother), believes in them, too. The comedy and romance of The Perez Family are winsome and wise in equal measure, and the film is much sexier than Nair's Kama Sutra. (In fact, it's surpassed in her oeuvre only by the gritty realism of Salaam Bombay!.) The Perez Family offers an intoxicating trip worth taking.
Séville's Canadian-import DVD of the gorgeous The Perez Family presents the film in a decadent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer indicated by intense saturation and a stunning clarity (among many scenes, its opening sequence in the waters around Miami is a showpiece ten minutes for the format). The image suffers not edge enhancement, artifacts, print scars, and other such flaws. Even detailed patterns are presented without moiré and that peculiar processing delay endemic to complex compressions. With a full stereo environment reproducing the film's fantastic soundtrack, The Perez Family sounds fantastic on this disc, too. Aside from an extremely handsome menu graphic, the DVD rounds out with a standard four-and-a-half minute featurette, cast and crew filmographies, a French dub, and a full-frame trailer.
135 minutes; R; 1.85:1 (16x9-enhanced); English DD 2.0 (Stereo), French DD 2.0 (Stereo); DVD-9; Region One; Séville