Conversations à la Sayles peel away women's layers in 'Casa de los Babys'
Seattle Times movie critic
Sayles, a rare screenwriter who consistently creates thoughtful roles for grown-up women, has outdone himself here — the six women, interchangeable at first, quickly emerge as intriguing individuals. Marcia Gay Harden's Nan is a constant talker, pushy and pleased with herself, but not quite the confident woman she appears to be. Daryl Hannah, as Skipper, hides a secret behind a cloak of physical perfection (and reveals it, in an aching scene).
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jennifer, the youngest of the six, has a wistful smile and an almost apologetic manner; she's clearly still feeling ambiguous, though her husband back home is not. ("No, I don't think you should call the Korea people. This isn't the commodities market," she tells him on the phone.) And Rita Moreno, lipstick perfectly applied and heels tapping, is the owner of the hotel in which they stay, and a businesswoman to the core, untroubled by moral clouds. Parasites, says her son, of the wealthy Americans. Customers, says she.
At times "Casa" feels more like a series of intelligent conversations than a movie — but moviegoers hungry for chewy subject matter won't be complaining. And there are moments, as in all of Sayles' films, when the honesty of the characters achieves a kind of lyricism. Susan Lynch, as Eileen, has a speech about her daughter-to-be, as she fantasizes getting the child ready to go out in the snow. "I go in front, to break the way for her," she says, in wonderment, near tears at the thought of a dream coming true.
Her only audience is a Spanish-speaking maid, who nonetheless understands and tells a story of her own daughter, who's now "up north." Everyone in this quietly moving film has a tale, and each is worth the telling; even the babies, with their shining eyes and gurgly smiles, seem poised to begin a story of their own.
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