“Instructions Not Included”
For those of you who are reluctant to see foreign language films with English subtitles, I can only encourage you to go see the fantastic Mexican film “Instructions Not Included.” It will remind you that personal flaws are a necessary by-product of the human condition.
Here, director Eugenio Derbez also plays Valentin, an unemployed Acapulco playboy dedicated to nothing other than getting laid. A fun-loving guy with few goals in life, he is the spitting Mexican image of Warren Beatty’s reputation 40 years ago.
However, his life turns upside down when Julie, a former lover played with a smarmy warmness by Jessica Lindsey, leaves a small child (Maggie) in his apartment. After telling Valentin that he is the father, she gets in a taxi and leaves in tears. Failing to hunt her down, Valentin takes Maggie on an illegal trip to Los Angeles in the attempt to find Julie. Dancing on the edge of desperation, he is able to find unexpected work as a Hollywood stuntman following a sensational scene that involves him saving his tiny daughter from drowning by leaping from a very high hotel balcony.
The film quickly spans Maggie’s first seven years, and father and daughter grow extremely close. She follows him to movie sites, acting as his translator as he literally puts his life in danger, and they find immense reward in each other.
There are numerous genuinely funny scenes in this movie, not the least of which is daddy’s beautiful next door neighbor who he frequently visits to assist with her “indoor plumbing.” He also turns his condo into a large child’s playroom, and you grow nearly as close to him as his daughter.
But just when you think that “Instructions Not Included” is an enjoyable family comedy, tragedy strikes. While I can’t go into it without ruining the film, you draw the conclusion that Valentin is told that he is dying because of an untreatable illness. In the process, Julie and her gay partner appear from New York to play a role in her abandoned daughter’s life.
Everyone in the legal profession realizes what happens next as Julie resorts to the courts in New York to gain custody of her daughter. Given that she is now a lawyer with a major New York firm, Valentin risks losing his beloved child rather than tell the truth about his medical condition.
While you dance on the edge of hating Ms. Lindsey, you really can’t fault her rebirth. On the other hand, as she tangles with Valentin in court, you are left with a smug distaste for preening divorce lawyers given the image portrayed by her elderly counsel.
What happens in the end brings a stunning twist to the entire film. While Valentin is reminded of his foolish father who tried to expose him to absurd moments of potential harm in the attempts to get him to overcome fear, he learns from his enchanting daughter that no life comes with instructions included.
“Inequality for All”
Robert Reich’s documentary “Inequality for All” provides a scathing analysis of what is wrong in our country today. Four hundred individuals i
n the U.S. have a combined income that exceeds half of our population. While the rich are taxed at the incredibly low rate of 35 percent, the average wage of the middle class has decreased since the 1970s.
How and why did we let this happen? When compared with other countries, the United States is 64th in income inequality. We are ranked behind Uruguay, and Mr. Reich poses the obvious question, “How much of this can we tolerate?”
In studying history, the top inequality rates in our country occurred in 1928 and 2007. With the colossally disappointing decision by our Supreme Court in Citizens United, the wealthy in this country have found a way to highjack the political system through their many well-paid lobbyists. Using the phony mantras that government involvement in our economy is bad while the rich are job creators, they exploit and manipulate grass-roots movements like the Tea Party.
Fundamentally, government sets rules for the free market system that allows capitalism to succeed. However, the fact is that 42 percent of kids in poverty won’t get out, while Mitt Romney’s annual tax rate was 13 percent. It is a betrayal of our national heritage to cut access to food stamps and health care.
While this same group of well-heeled oligarchs commandeer state legislatures and pass “right to work” legislation, unions gradually recede into the background. The anti-union crusade began when President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, and we’ve reached a national stage where no one really cares about the workers of this country.
Remember, the tax rates on the wealthy neared 90 percent under Republican President Eisenhower. No one suffered, and the economy boomed. Today, middle class families inevitably have both parents working longer hours, not to mention increasing their debt obligations. This all burst with the 2008 recession, and we haven’t learned a thing if you listen to Republican Congressmen in Washington.
Consumer spending represents 70 percent of the economy. The rich don’t spend, they save their money. Congressional Republicans would have us believe that halting taxes on the wealthy who make medical equipment while both cutting food stamps and denying millions of Americans access to the Affordable Care Act will benefit our country. That is a monstrous lie.
If you want to see the absurdity of their position, why are they opposed to the Affordable Care Act while simultaneously having their own health insurance premiums paid by taxpayers? Guys like Senator Cruz and Speaker Boehner want their medical care while denying same to the middle class, and that’s what stands out repeatedly in Mr. Reich’s remarkable documentary.
Having served as secretary of labor under President Clinton, Mr. Reich wants us to emulate one country, namely ourselves after World War II. Let’s stop using slogans like “class warfare” and start embracing positive social change.
The middle class is struggling, and it is time Congress comes out from their self-imposed cocoon.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.