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[whitespace] 'Me, You, Them'
Wedding Party: Darlene (Regina Case) enjoys the atmosphere at a local dance hall, where she happens to meet up with a future groom or two.

Always a Bride

A robust Brazilian woman acquires a houseful of husbands in 'Me, You, Them'

By Don Hines

AT LAST, a beautiful heroine with some meat on her bones. Zaftig Brazilian TV star Regina Case plays Darlene, the "Me" of the title. In this largely true story, she portrays a peasant woman in northeast Brazil who is sturdy enough to chop forests of sugarcane and to fetch a lake-full of water one bucket at a time, and who, more through impulse than design, accumulates three husbands living under one leaky roof, and four sons from four fathers.

In the first scene she's left barefoot and very pregnant at the altar. She returns three years later to see her dying mother, and accepts an offhand marriage proposal from a middle-aged homeowner (his home is a two-room mud-walled shack). He's a pill and a layabout. He breaks up their wedding party because the noise is "keeping my goats awake." She works in the cane fields all day, while he lounges in a hammock listening to his prized transistor radio. She lets the laundry drift into the river one day, and a helpful nebbish cousin Zehzino (Stenio Garcia) gathers the wet clothes for her. They end up in the weeds together; Darlene acquires the second of three husbands and soon gives birth to the third of four sons from different men.

Her marriages are neither of convenience nor survival. Darlene isn't ground down by dusty poverty or by a husband who treats her more like a mule than a mate. When she sees someone she wants, she gets him. The husbands complement each other. A marriage counselor once told me that we look for three major life partners: one for sex, one for raising kids, and one for companionship. The counselor said you're ahead of the game if you find two out of three in the same person. Darlene just naturally keeps three very different types of guys.

Me, You, Them could have been a door-slamming bedroom farce if the house had beds and doors instead of hammocks and sheets. This serene comedy of mores unfolds at a languid pace. Beautiful cinemascope photography by Breno Silveira finds natural beauty in the harsh countryside. Farmwork hasn't looked this picturesque since Terrence Malick's prairie-gothic Days of Heaven. Gilberto Gil's sensuous soundtrack complements the quiet direction of Andrucha Waddington and wonderfully low-key script by Elena Soarez.

Watching the film is like staring at the contours of a semi-desert: change comes into view naturally and mysteriously. However, the film's charms rest on the strong shoulders of Case; she's a happier Anna Magnani, a force of good-nature. This gorgeous broad-beamed earth mama could crush a dozen Calista Flockharts for kindling wood. In American films we're fed a diet of spindly, large-featured Camerons and Gwyneths who resemble cartoon ducks more than real women. If that fat, balding sensualist Tony Soprano is America's sexiest man (as one infotainment-magazine poll recently found), then where's the ample, middle-aged sexuality on the distaff side? The first meeting of the Regina Case Fan Club, San Jose chapter, is now called to order!


Me, You, Them (PG-13; 104 min.), directed by Andrucha Waddington, written by Elena Soarez, photographed by Breno Silveira and starring Regina Case, Lima Duarte, Stenio Garcia and Luís Carlos Vasconcelos, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the March 22-28, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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