2/01/2008

Love for Rent

Director: Shane Edelman

Given a bland and inaccurate title destined to make it blend in with similarly named romantic comedies such as Can’t Buy Me Love, For Love or Money or Love Don’t Cost a Thing, director Shane Edelman’s delightful and surprising sleeper Love for Rent won the Audience Award for Best Film at the New York Latino Film Festival in 2005. Now relegated to video store shelves and a few runs on premium cable channels, the movie stars likable Angie Cepeda as Sofia, a Columbian immigrant busily working on her law degree whose world comes crashing down when her sleazy Green Card Husband decides to steal everything from Sofia (including the futon she was sleeping on) in the middle of the night and she ends up with serious immigration issues.

Of course, this couldn’t be more topical given our current political campaigns and tough talk on immigration and whatever one’s stand is on the issue, it was nice to see the situation handled in an empathetic, rare, and humanistic way. Although clearly, Love for Rent has more in common with a mature, contemporary fairy tale than the hard facts of some immigration struggles, it was nice to see this take on the situation rather than another film wherein young women enter the states to become slaughterhouse workers or drug mules (in the superior, tragically realistic yet depressing Fast Food Nation and Maria Full of Grace).

Far from getting a free ride though, Sofia’s story takes a bit of a leap after learning her lout of a mate canceled her insurance prior to her car being totaled by her cousin’s kind but dim Green Card Husband. Afterwards, she is offered a strange solution by wealthy white couple Frank and Helen Bauman (Jim Piddock and Nora Dunn). Still heartbroken from numerous miscarriages, they decide that instead of trying to rent love, they will look for a rentable uterus (although Uterus for Rent would have been a lousy movie title) and offer Sofia fifty thousand dollars to become a surrogate mother. Despite her fears that as she carries the child her maternal instinct would kick in and grow too attached to the baby, Sofia, desperate to make a better life for herself and finish her law degree decides to take them up on the offer. However, instead of harrowing drama, her character gets a far more involving plot after meeting two additional males—Dr. Neil Gardner (Ken Marino), the dishy emergency room doctor who begins dating the pregnant woman without being aware of her condition (some doc!) and the adorable but troubled orphan boy next door who spends increasing amounts of time with Sofia to escape his situation.

Love for Rent is heartfelt and entertaining enough to let us forgive a few of the film's missteps of overly cute situations where Neil, Sofia and the neighbor boy must pose as a clich├ęd family for Neil’s mom. However, we’re even more willing to overlook some of the film’s contrived solutions near the end of the picture because we’ve come to respect and care about our leads so much that they fully earn the right to their “movie-neat” conclusion. A great offering by actor turned director Shane Edelman and one that I think men may enjoy just as much as women, that is if you can track down and rent Love for Rent.