Genre: Comedy, Drama
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 42m
Director(s): EJ Foerster, Marny Eng
Writer(s): Patrick Hasburgh
Cast: Steve Zahn, Jess Gabor, Roselyn Sanchez, Judy Greer, Jorge A. Jimenez
Where To Watch: in select theaters and VOD April 21, 2023
RAVING REVIEW: Avoid perusing too many summaries, as they might inadvertently give you more information than you may want, especially if you don’t like spoilers. One fleeting twist in GRINGA weakens its impact by being forgotten about for the most part. Despite these shortcomings, the movie provides an enjoyable experience and a story that (even being a bit predictable) follows a tried and true formula that will invoke emotion in most.
Jess Gabor delivers a mesmerizing performance as Marge, a high school outcast dealing with incredibly challenging circumstances. Desiring a fresh start, Marge embarks on a quest to reunite with her estranged father (played by Steve Zahn), a once-celebrated soccer player now residing in rural Mexico. He and Marge confront life's obstacles and rebuild their shattered family with the remnants left behind. Zahn’s character is a bit of a stereotype, playing an alcohol-loving burnout as his daughter tries to reignite the passion for life in him.
Gabor's depiction of Marge is the film's core; it's her battle, and the struggles keep getting thrown in her way. Valentina Buzzurro portrays Azusana, Marge's loyal friend, soccer teammate, and arguably the fuel to Marge’s fire. The biggest issue with Buzzurro’s character is that she feels like the film's scapegoat.
Zahn's character, Jackson, needs more development; the audience is expected to accept the transformation of an alcoholic beach bum within a month as he leads an underwhelming soccer team to a tournament while embracing fatherhood and supporting his daughter's aspirations. There’s a battle here with the script not knowing what it wants to focus on, and this isn’t even tackling the primary source of Gabor’s character struggle.
Given more room for growth, GRINGA could have been a truly remarkable film. The main issue lies in constrained writing, preventing the movie from realizing its full potential. Nevertheless, the acting is consistently strong, and the film's visual style and tone are well-executed. At the same time, the character's emotional turmoil feels authentic, even with the predictable storylines.
In summary, GRINGA touches upon "teamwork" on multiple levels but fails to delve deep enough to convey a meaningful message or impart an insightful lesson. I still enjoyed the film; I would have liked more experimentation with a story we’ve seen before. If you’re looking for a good father/daughter bonding film, this has all the ups and downs one would expect.
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[photo courtesy of GRAVITAS VENTURES]