Angel Rodriguez (HBO)
From HBO Films. Rachel Griffiths and new comer Jonan Everett star in the story of a counselor and the troubled inner-city teenager she is trying to help, both of who are at turning points in their lives. Angel acts out by stealing, lying, fighting with his father, and undermining every opportunity he is given, and seems headed for the streets. Taking place on a single pivotal day, the film challenges commonly accepted beliefs about altruism.
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Top Customer Reviews
McKay's portrayal of his central character, Angel, is both gentle and realistic. He knows that the boy has both strengths and weaknesses. Tempted to steal from someone who has given him a place to stay for the night, he steals. And we learn that he is capable of a murderous rage. But there's also a struggle going on in him to persevere, be responsible, and not give up hope. This mixture of traits makes him a compelling study in youthful complexity. The role is played convincingly by a nonactor, Jonan Everett. Meanwhile, Rachel Griffiths as the school counselor demonstrates the remarkable ability to make us forget that we've seen her for several seasons as a continuing character on "Six Feet Under." The DVD has a sparse commentary by McKay, who admits that he'd prefer to say nothing and let his film speak for itself. While it's clear that the purpose of the film is to tell a story, it owes much to the cinema verite style of documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, whom McKay acknowledges as a prime influence.
Angel's definitely a likable guy. He's got plenty of friends, including Raymond (Wallace Little), good grades, and he's a talented programmer. So, why's he out on the street? His Dad alleges the kid's a liar and a thief, but it seems more like Angel's inconvenient since Daddy's got a new girlfriend, who doesn't get along with Angel.
Nicole, Angel's counselor, is taking a pretty big risk giving a high school kid seeming cart blanche access to her home and her house keys with nary a blink.
"Angel" had me watching attentively for more, but the script didn't precisely provide it. The actors did and I wished I could have seen more than just this short 'slice of life' with some serious inconsistencies. The film's well worth watching just to see the actors interact, but doesn't provide the depth I was hoping for.
Rebecca Kyle, January 2009
The performances are so utterly real and lacking in gloss or shtick it often feels like you're watching a documentary. Everett and Griffiths deliver the kind of subtle performances that earned Oscars for the young Jack Nicholson, Tim Hutton, or Ellen Burstyn. Especially good are Indie stalwarts O'Hare and Kellner, who shine as always but here bring an understated narcissism to their characters that wonderfully frames the raw 'big life decisions' at-risk Angel and his social worker Nicole face during a very tense--and poignant--36 hours.
If what you're looking for is a film you'll think about for weeks after you've seen it, poring over the minute gestures and moments and choices of these two very small lives, the kind of film that, like great art, stays with you, 'Angel Rodriguez' is for you. If you like to watch stuff blow-up, forget it, and if you're the kind or moralizer that likes his Right and Wrong underlined in crayon and wrapped up in a big easy resolution at the end, don't bother. Dr. Phil fans beware.