“A Walk in the Clouds” is the story of a hastily married GI returning from World War II who poses as the husband of the beautiful, pregnant-out-of-wedlock daughter of a Mexican American Napa wine baron in order to preserve her honor and save her from her father’s wrath. Under the spell of the hauntingly beautiful winery and the close-knit family, genuine--but problematic--love blossoms between the pair. (Rated PG-13)
There were few young male faces in the audience at a recent screening of “A Walk in the Clouds"--understandable, perhaps, because the film’s star, Keanu Reeves, was emoting his way through a tender love story instead of a bus wired with explosives.
But the lack of kabooms didn’t bother several of the young women in the audience.
“I loved it,” said Kaley Pickett, 14, of Irvine. “I didn’t expect Keanu Reeves to be that good. He’s always been kind of macho, but this was nice. I was really impressed. It wasn’t your average, predictable movie. It was just a good, old-fashioned love story.”
Kaley’s friend Candice Coodley, visiting from her home in Beaverton, Ore., was equally impressed with Reeves’ co-star and love interest, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon.
“I really liked the girl,” she said. “I really hope to see her in other movies.”
But pure matinee idol appeal couldn’t sway everybody. For Lani Chun, 17, of Irvine, and Karen Lee, 18, of Mission Viejo, Reeves’ performance was looks: 9, acting: 2.
“I don’t think Keanu Reeves did a very good job,” Lani said. “He should stick to action movies. The story line wasn’t really original, and [Sanchez-Gijon] was the only thing that saved the movie. It was predictable. You just knew they were going to fall in love and how the end was going to turn out.”
Said Lee, succinctly: “His acting just has to go.”
Others thought there were several moments worth keeping, however, because “A Walk in the Clouds” is in many ways an episodic film, with many self-contained images and scenes.
Kaley Pickett said she particularly enjoyed the earthiness of the scene that showed wine grapes being crushed the old-fashioned way: by the married women of the family dancing barefoot over the fruit in a huge oak vat.
Elizabeth Horan, 18, of Irvine, was taken by the sight of Reeves’ slightly drunken character fumbling his way through a serenade in Spanish under the window of his beloved.
Her sister Rebecca, 16, was impressed by an early scene of a lavish dinner at the family casa at the winery, complete with plumed pheasants and elegant china and crystal. And she liked it in spite of the grumbling of the unhappy father (Giancarlo Giannini).
“It was a typical father-type thing,” she said, “and everything was so polite.
“I thought it was a very charming romance, not your typical ‘90s movie with sex and violence. It was sweet and romantic.”
Said Elizabeth Horan: “Things should be like that in real life.”
And there is something in “A Walk in the Clouds” for the male viewer, after all, at least according to Elizabeth and Rebecca’s father Bill Horan. Unbidden, and reflecting an appreciation for a vat full of good-looking legs, he voted for the grape crush as his favorite part of the film.