A rushed piece of drama lacking in both thought and execution

Seeming as somewhat of a passion project for director Paul Weitz, Bel Canto is a low budget, limited piece, looking into ideas around Stockholm Syndrome, the humanity of those carrying out the most heinous crimes, and the uncovering of love in the strangest of places. Using multiple, deep themes in any work is risky, but especially when each need truly exploring and there’s only 1 hour and 41 minutes of footage to convey that.

Roxane Coss (Julianne Moore), a world famous soprano, embarks on the last leg of her world tour. Excited for its imminent end, Coss travels to South America for a performance at a private event for Japanese businessman Hosakawa (Ken Watanabe). However, soon after starting, the concert is hijacked by a group of guerrilla fighters, demanding vast amounts of money to release the dignitaries back into society.

Bel Canto 2

With so little happening, Weitz tries to cram in as many themes, ideas, and motifs as he possibly can, uncovering very little of interest, only advancing characters in minute steps. The expansiveness of what Bel Canto does isn’t near the ability it has within its grasp. Bel Canto does a particularly poor job of connecting its characters to its ideas, and falls into the melodrama trap-door so many similar pieces are already stuck under.

The guerrillas are never really explored, with only a couple offered weak interactions with their hostages, and the idea of opera bringing the group together comes off as cheap and forced, a feeling almost the entirety of Bel Canto stinks of. It feels rushed, despite its relatively small run time.

Julianne Moore is endlessly wasted, especially when she’s made to act as if she’s singing operatically, looking exactly like she is miming to a track recorded in a studio when she’s standing outside. (Which is exactly what she’s doing.) This also happens to sums up Bel Canto for exactly what it is: A rushed piece of drama lacking in both thought and execution, with no attempts to genuinely make it the affecting piece it’s final moments exposes it as pretending to be.


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