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Rental Unit "The Lost City"

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Cry for Me, Havana

Pet projects are often synonyms for disaster. Just look at Andy Garcia's directorial debut, "The Lost City," a tale of revolutionary Cuba and of unchecked earnestness.

The foremost mistake in a career move like this is casting yourself in the lead. Garcia has compounded this condition by casting himself as the same one-dimensional romantic-drama lead he has played in nearly every movie since the early 1990s. Garcia is Fico: handsome, noble, the eldest brother in a large and successful Havana family, trying to hold up as a nightclub owner as the political storm moves in.

Followed around by a wise-cracking sidekick (Bill Murray), neutral Fico is hassled on one side by the corrupt forces of the current regime — including Dustin Hoffman in a throwaway role as Meyer Lansky — and harried on the other by the various factions of revolt his brothers want to join. One younger brother runs off with Fidel; another is killed in a daring coup. Fico, steady, honorable, has no choice: He must date his brother's lonely, stunningly gorgeous widow, Aurore (Inés Sastre).

After a montage of romantic nights, Fico realizes his new girlfriend is just a plot device. Fidel triumphs, Fico loses his club, and Aurore is seduced by the revolutionaries. Fico, irate but composed, must march into the devil's lair and pull out his befuddled beloved by the wrist. But on his way out: a toast to a truly free Cuba and an empty champagne glass aimed like a white glove at the despicable Che.

The idea of Garcia's larger-than-life Fico taking on all these grand forces is ludicrous, and Garcia, inexperienced, adds injury to insult with clumsy direction. Scenes are too long, or cut too abruptly, often eliciting more laughter even than the communist forces, reminiscent of Woody Allen in "Bananas." By the end of this movie the term "vanity project" can only be taken so far. The arrogant are done in by dreams of revolution. "The Lost City" has trouble handling simple convention. S



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