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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bread and Roses
Bread and Roses
Trimark // R // November 27, 2001
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted April 20, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Bread and Roses is one of those films that turns out to be significantly more entertaining than the short description would suggest. A film about immigrant janitors striking for better wages and working conditions might seem more like documentary material than film material... but Bread and Roses does a nice job of making an engaging story out of material that is also socially relevant.

A good cast is one of the strengths of the film. Pilar Padilla takes on the role of Maya, an illegal immigrant who is lucky to get a job at all in the United States; nonetheless, she is not content to work within the system that she sees is slowly crushing her sister Rosa (Elpidia Carillo). Carillo in fact turns in a great supporting performance as Maya's hardworking and conservative sister. Similarly, Adrien Brody absolutely fits the part as the labor leader, with a wackiness that manages to be completely realistic, and that doesn't overshadow his presentation of the character as fundamentally committed to the cause.

The script requires most of the main actors, particularly Padilla, to perform in both Spanish and English. Bread and Roses is at its heart a truly bilingual film, with the dialogue being presented in whichever language was more natural and appropriate in the context of the scene. I found that this gave a nice added depth to the film.

The story is definitely up-beat (stressing what the workers can accomplish if they are willing to work together against the system) but also realistic (what price they will pay if they fail, and also what some people will have to pay as consequences either way), and it didn't go for a tidy Hollywood ending.

Video

We get a pleasant surprise with the transfer of Bread and Roses. Though it's not mentioned anywhere on the packaging, the widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced. Colors and contrast are generally good; the one problem with the image is an element of graininess throughout the picture.

Audio

The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack included on this DVD is generally fairly good. The dialogue is clear for the most part, though it could be a little cleaner. There's not much use of surround effects, but there's not much call for them, either.

I was pleased to see that the film has optional English and Spanish subtitles. Most viewers will likely choose the English subtitles, but it is great to see that they're not burned in. As a fluent Spanish speaker, I enjoyed being able to appreciate the use of both languages in the film without the distraction of subtitles, whereas people who are familiar with Spanish but less confident of their understanding will enjoy being able to put Spanish subtitles.

Extras

Bread and Roses is a fairly bare-bones disc, with a trailer being the only special feature included.

Final thoughts

I wouldn't class Bread and Roses as a classic, but it did keep my attention, and I appreciated its mix of energy and realism. I'd certainly recommend it for viewing by anyone who enjoys independent and foreign-language films, and it's probably worth at least a rental for a wider audience.
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