Bel Canto

Julianne Moore plays a renowned opera soprano, Roxanne Coss, who doesn’t know what she is in for when she travels for a private engagement in a Latin American country ruled by a dictatorship. The event is a fancy party in a mansion for a married Japanese industrialist, Katsumi Hosokawa, played by handsome Ken Watanabe, who has come there to investigate business possibilities, with the country’s president slated to attend.

Fortunately for the president, he is absent, as the party is suddenly invaded by a rebel guerilla group taking everyone hostage and demanding that for the hostages to be released the government must release rebels imprisoned for their activities.

There follows an intense standoff, with negotiations going on amid increased tensions as the threat of executions mounts. The plot of “Bel Canto,” based on a novel by Ann Patchett, is typical of hostage-taking films, except that in the midst of it all in this one, the singer and industrialist develop the hots for each other. With Moore and Watanabe as the stars, the film partially assumes an attractiveness and romantic quality despite the otherwise formula plot in the screenplay by Anthony Weintraub and director Paul Weitz, who manage to mostly keep up the suspense.

As the time extends, Julianne Moore as Roxanne sings, just as she does in a portion of the film that follows the violent climax. Of course, Moore is not an opera singer. Doing the vocals for her is the magnificent Renée Fleming, and her singing thrills. The film itself needs to be more thrilling, but it passes because of the magnetism of its stars. A Screen Media release. Reviewed September 14, 2018.

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