La Boda de Valentina, translated to English as Valentina’s Wedding, is a cross-cultural romantic comedy about a Mexican woman who has the perfect life in New York City, but, her world turns upside down when she returns to Mexico to confront her family about why she’s still legally married to her ex-husband, only to find out that she must stay married to him, in order to save the reputation of her family’s name: the Hidalgo; the most chaotic and surreal political dynasty in the history of Mexico.
From the opening images we’re taken into a romantic world with a beautiful musical score over the backdrop of the New York City skyline where we meet Valentina – the striking actress Marimar Vega who’s captivating eyes constantly catch your attention – posing outside for her American “Gringo” or “Guero” boyfriend Jason (Ryan Carnes, General Hospital) while he begs her to smile so he can take her picture. After Valentina jokingly flips the camera off with both hands, she’s surprised to see that a group of people standing on an apex of steps – people we never meet but assume are Jason’s friends – holding lettered signs that read ‘Will you marry me?’ A proposal to which Valentina happily accepts. Valentina persuades Jason to stay in New York while she goes to Mexico City to confront her family; a family she’s run away from and refuses to invite to their small and intimate wedding they intend on having in New York. Jason’s not allowed to research her family history on the internet, so he doesn’t know anything about the infamous Hidalgo’s political history. They could be a family of serial killers for all he knows. But, he loves her, and he never “googles” her.
The film does an amusing job hinting on cultural differences, like the constant fireworks and explosions suggesting the festive atmosphere of Mexico City, or when Valentina arrives at the airport and her still legally married, yet, ex-husband Angel – the comedically talented Mexican actor, Omar Chapparo – arrives like mister cool as her chauffeur; opening the passenger door and loading her luggage in the trunk like a gentleman, while clearly having his way of words with her behind a wry smile. Valentina refuses the preposterousness of the situation and calls for a cab, only to be reminded by him that “This isn’t New York” and you can’t call a cab at the airport in Mexico.
Valentina confronts her father about her new engagement to Jason. To which he reluctantly accepts, regretting to inform her that she’s to attend political red carpet events and social gatherings acting as if Angel is genuinely still her husband. Her relationship with Angel transitions too fast from awkward to comfortability. It’s hard to buy the way they abruptly decide to crash a wedding and dance together so happily. Their attraction doesn’t rekindle in a realistic method and the dramatic musical score insists that we’re to believe it.
But, of course, a surprise visit to Mexico by none other than…Jason. The plot thickens.
Jason finds Valentina exiting a limousine with Angel, smothered in his arms after the crashed wedding. Valentina lies and calls Angel a friend, as she genuinely embraces Jason, jumping into his arms and making out with him while Angel is left behind, sincerely disheartened by their intimacy. Jason the “Pinche” Gringo sleeps in the Hidalgo family guest room, only to be rudely awakened by the cane of Valentina’s grandfather beating him up and yelling obscenities at him in Spanish, “The Yankees stole Texas!”
As Angel welcomes himself in their family home that same morning, due to his close relationship within her father’s political campaign, he locks eyes with Jason in a hilarious Spaghetti Western zoom reminiscent of a Sergio Leone film. After calling her fiancé on his phone, Valentina – a mischief-maker concealed behind a sweet façade – instigates inevitable drama when she requests for Jason to hand the phone to Angel, requesting for him to show Jason around town like some sort of tour guide. Jason and Angel have a wild night out on the town drinking tequila, taking voluntary electric shocks and attending an underground Mexican wrestling event.
But, of course, the following morning, a hungover Jason is revealed to the fact that Valentina is still married to Angel when he sees himself on the Mexican morning news, after Valentina’s brother blew the whistle to her father’s political rival on how she’s engaged to an American.
Jason and Angel love two different Valentina’s. Jason loves the Sweet New Yorker Valentina, while, Angel knows her roots: the wild Mexican Valentina who crashes weddings. The question is: who does Valentina love? She hates her family’s political mess and loves living in New York with Jason, but, while she’s in Mexico, she realizes how much she really misses being around her family and being in close proximity with Angel.
The film’s director, Marco Polo Constandse, who’s known for his work as an Assistant Director on Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico, made an entertaining picture but neglected to do an adequate job of overseeing the editorial process. The pacing of the editing is incredibly rapid. One half a second too short or too fast and we don’t quite catch the image he intended for us to view. The montage sequences are inefficiently mashed-up and shots are hurriedly cut together while we’re left wondering, “What just happened there?”
La Boda de Valentina has a great pay-off for an ending. Valentina’s decision between Jason and Angel is a tough one to make and her final choice is reminiscent of wishful thinking. But, that’s why we go to the movies; to wish and dream of miracles and long-lost loves reuniting in fairy tales that aren’t too good to be true, they’re simply good and true. For a woman to call off her wedding because her heart is with another man is courageous. La Boda de Valentina hopes that more women follow their heart toward their true love, even if its buried in their past, and it hopes that more men wish for their ex’s happiness, even if it means they can’t be with their dream girl. This is an idealistic film filled with amusement, and, even though we know life is unfair, perhaps life has happy endings, too. But, movies are happy; that’s what cinema is for; to dream of what we can’t have in life.