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‘Crossing Over’ Film Review: Interlocking stories, struggles, and immigration

February 28, 2015 - Drama, Film Reviews, Films, Hollywood, Latino, Political
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Crossing Over movie review

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Average

Forced, heavy-handed, and overdone, “Crossing Over” gets so wrapped up in its quest for topical resonance that it forgets some of the basics of telling a good narrative. From its paint-by-the-number quality to the banality of presenting its subject matter, this misconceived immigration drama turns out as an incompetent way of mounting a multi-character piece.

Amidst the fact that this seemingly well-intentioned drama tackles realistic issues about U.S. immigration policies, the provocative points about the country’s attitude towards migrants, and the possible horrors of getting naturalized, it lacks the needed subtlety and eloquence for it to succeed. Too many of the hurdles in the story feel like a product of a writer’s imagination than being real-life experiences. Its message gets undermined by its cardboard characters and clunky script.

While the film certainly offers some viable stance for more people to relate to it, its crisscrossing stories, heavy ironies, and even heavier moralizing just don’t work. It turns out more like a muddle of good liberal intentions that get loosely anchored to a mass of pure Hollywood triteness.

“Crossing Over” is a blend of thriller and social drama utilized in a hokum kind of way. Being a politically-minded ensemble piece, its multi-character canvas about immigrants of varying nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in America really falters with the wobbly screenplay and loose direction. The storytelling gets unbalanced with its competing storylines. Its lapses into sentimentality are overkill.

The story is improperly fleshed out through stereotypical characters and overly structured sub-stories that keep crossing and bumping into each other, primarily dictating a general air of dull preachiness. It mainly strains with too many characters, too many story strands, and too much of an effort to cover all the bases. The characters are stretched thin with only the most overstuffed dialogue to express themselves. The focus on these immigrant dreamers runs into thematic banality because the film’s treatment is filled with much crass manipulation.

The camera work, editing, and the entire means of storytelling have that very amateurish feel to it. Scenes are very choppy. It’s like entire reels have been cut for whatever weird reason. Tied together with endless, flattening shots of American homes, highways, and establishments, it may be sporadically provocative given its theme and subject matter, but it is also often convoluted and dull with random undercooked messages and ideas showcased every now and then.

As a contrived saga with subplots showcasing immigration woes of all sorts, its markedly unimaginative sense of cinematic storytelling often offers boring moments with little new or insightful to add to the debate about the underlying politics and promise of the relatively unlimited opportunities in the U.S.A. — as mentioned by the judge during the oath-taking ceremony for the newly naturalized Americans.

Even with its unsuccessful mounting, director Wayne Kramer deserves credit for taking on the touchy subject. The presented issues don’t seem pretentious, just the didactic but ineffective way of telling the story. Somehow in some way, it is still an interesting failure as a movie that at least strives to be about something thematically relevant, even though it entangles itself too much that it fails to become a good cinematic offer.

The lack of subtlety in its multi-stranded storytelling makes the movie an overwrought harangue about the gates of illegal immigration. It spoils the supposed empathy for its subject and theme. The surfeit of coincidences weaving the characters together tries to keep the action unified as an anthropological melodrama. However, its intensity doesn’t live up to its very intentions as the sledgehammer approach becomes mostly off-putting and risible on screen.

The film has a few moments of poignancy and engaging acting, especially with the outstanding performance of Summer Bishil as Taslima Jahangir. Her acting moment is just bull’s-eye to the heart’s core — a very impressive scene that stands out from a movie filled with utter mediocrity.

This would have been a perfectly serviceable film. Yet, it merely provides hysterical little bits of what is already given. Viewers get what the filmmakers are trying to say about immigration and nationalism, but everything is laid down in an overly substantial form that seems mistreated to deliver more yawns than moral, political, and intellectual stimulation. And even with famed names as Harrison Ford as Max Brogan, Ashley Judd as Denise Frankel, Jim Sturgess as Gavin Kossef, Cliff Curtis as Hamid Baraheri, Ray Liotta as Cole Frankel, among other names, this issue-oriented movie remains a disappointment.

This illegal immigration drama is timely and well-intentioned; however, it is too contrived and schematic to generate good enough credibility for its subject matter. It is a serious film that offers some pretty good performances, but the sheer number of characters in the narrative dilutes their power. All these leave the movie in a bit of a mess in its own game of sex, violence, betrayal, and diminished nobility of the tradition of naturalized citizenship. From a purely cinematic point of view, “Crossing Over” is a bit too interlocking and hampered by its wayward and overreaching direction and overstuffed script.


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