DVD Review - A Beautiful Life

Angela Sarafyan plays Maggie, a young girl who has nowhere to go and finds herself homeless in Los Angeles. She ends up sleeping behind a dumpster next to a strip club named Sam's Hof Brau.

Jesse Garcia (Quinceanera) plays David, a busboy, waiter and illegal immigrant at the resturant. He reluctantly gives Maggie a place to stay after Esther, a Chinese singer and stripper, played by Bai Ling, urges him to do so. She recognizes before the two of them do that both are damaged goods, scarred in their own ways.

Based on the play "Jersey City" by Wendy Hammond and co-written and produced by Deborah Calla, this story definitely speaks to those who are trying to start over. Whether it's coming to a new country with no money or whether it's coming from money in order to get away from an abusive situation.

Of course, because of their circumstances, they easily fall to desperate and dangerous scenarios. Director Alejandro Chomski gives us a glimpse of this neighborhood and the people in it. We're given the Asian businesswoman who runs a convenience store, the Mexican boys who play soccer in a small parking lot, and the Eastern European girls who do drugs and whatever else they want without worry of consequence.

Yet, we're only given glimpses. Our eyes are really locked on David and Maggie. Even when the two of them are at a birthday party, the psychosexual dynamics of their relationship come into play. At first, it's the basic come-here-go-away game, but David sees in Maggie something within himself, hurt when all they wanted was to feel safe. David has a quiet, reserved passion. Things take a turn that in order to satisfy Maggie, making her feel safe is the opposite of what he'll have to do.

Sarafyan is challenged with a difficult role here. Her character of Maggie at one point claims to be a virgin when nothing could be farther from the truth. Yet, she has to make David believe it because that's what she believes. It may not be that she's never had sex, but that she's never had healthy sex. Either she's desensitized to the warm, gentle touch of a man who loves her like David, or else she's afraid of it. She violently lashes out trying to provoke a harsher physical response because that's all she knows, thanks to her mother and father, played by Dana Delany and Jonathan LaPaglia.

Sarafyan is smart, despite the naivete of her character. The wide-eyed stares, the hysterics she expresses, the sadness-slash-anger-slash-terror is all co-mingled and balanced brilliantly by this actress.

Garcia, as he's done in previous roles, moves with a swagger that makes him seem rough and confident, but there are moments when you look into his eyes and it's like he's a little boy. He's strong while at the same time so sweet and most of the time I don't even think he's trying. He's just so natural. His character of David is the more experienced one but in many ways he's a virgin too, if not physically than quite possibly emotionally.

Chomski throws Sarafyan and Garcia in that warehouse living space and lets these two damaged souls find peace with each other. It's difficult but a genuine effort. What's beautiful about this movie is that difficulty between Sarafyan and Garcia's characters but how you come to believe that these two would gravitate toward one another and stay together as they work out their issues.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 21 mins.


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