DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

EDEN IS WEST (EDEN A L' OUEST) (director/writer: Costa-Gavras; screenwriter: Jean-Claude Grumberg; cinematographer: Patrick Blossier; editor:  Yannick Kergoat; music:  Armand Amar; cast: Riccardo Scamarcio (Elias), Ulrich Tukur (Nick Nickelby), Juliane Koehler (Cristina), Antoine Monot (German trucker), Florian Martens (German trucker), Eric Caravaca (Jack, director of the Eden Club), Marisha Triantafillidou (director of the Eden Club), Ieroklis Mihailidis (spatting married Greek tourist), Annie Loulou (spatting married Greek tourist), Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos (Elias's illegal friend), Konstantinos Markoulakis (Yvan), Igor Raspopov (Leonid); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Costa-Gavras/Manos Krezias/Jérôme Seydoux; Sharmill Films; 2013-France-in French, Greek, German and English, with English subtitles when needed)

"A mediocre film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A mediocre film. The France-residing half Greek born in Greece immigrant director Costa-Gavras ("Z"/"Missing"/"The Ax"), a seemingly one film wonder, who never reached again the heights of his masterpiece Z (1968), a film about the fascist dictators in Greece. This belabored political pic offers a lighthearted, Homer-like Odyssey, as it takes on the problems of the illegals and the problems globalization causes for western countries. Trouble is that it's awkwardly filmed, the second-rate screenplay by Costa-Gavras and Jean-Claude Grumberg is brutal, the almost mime acting by the star is gooey and the episodic road film is contrived and lacks credibility. It was so poorly executed that it's hard to find sympathy for its nice guy sympathetic adventurous hero illegal. The Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio plays the part of the confused illegal in a heavy-handed hangdog expression-like manner, begging us to like him.

Elias (Riccardo Scamarcio) is a nervous unemployed laborer on a crowded trawler, on the Aegean Sea, looking for a better life in Europe. He departs Crete to go to Paris with his best friend (Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos). A Greek Coast Guard boat captures the illegals, as Elias throws his ID overboard and to avoid arrest jumps ship to swim alone to the shore of Southern France where he arrives at the nudist beach of the posh resort called The Eden Club Paradise.

In a series of lame episodic incidents the unworldly Elias must pretend to be the resort plumber and baggage-handler, dodge the sexual advances of the gay male resort co-director (Eric Caravaca) and the suspicions of the snarling female co-director (Marisha Triantafillidou), comply with the sexual advances of the horny rich German guest from Germany (Juliane Koehler), and go on an organized resort guest night search party to catch any illegals on the beach. When the resort directors become aware Elias is an illegal, he chooses to stick to his original plan of finding work in Paris even though Cristina invites him to stay with her in Hamburg. After robbing Cristina and fleeing Paradise in the dead of night, Elias heads to Paris by robbing a sailboat, hitching a number of rides with various results, being helped by gypsies to escape from the clutches of the police, getting enough money to take a train to Paris and, all the time, he obsesses over getting to the Lido in Paris to take up the magician Nick Nickelby's (Ulrich Tukur) vague job offer to be an assistant in his Paris-based magic act (the job offer came when the magician put on a magic show at the resort and used the naive Elias in the act). You can bet the ranch on how that's going to work out.

Played as a facile crowd-pleaser, it pats itself on the back for being so pro-illegal as it tiresomely offers the most simplistic take on the hot-button immigration issue. It shows its fish out water hero either being treated piggishly or with compassion by various strangers from the European Union he encounters in his long and dangerous journey to the City of Lights. But it's a disposable film. There's not a new thing said about the immigration issue, and its view is so one-sided that it leaves no openings for further thoughts about the delicate subject it raises and fails to do justice to.

REVIEWED ON 3/5/2014       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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