dir. Ireland

Opens Fri Sept 12

Various Theaters

You know this movie is in trouble when the phrase "a bit of Portugal in America" flashes across the scene before the action starts, as if the movie were a restaurant menu. And just in case you didn't catch that, Passionada begins with a scene that indulges every cliché of Mediterranean immigrant life. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, a lovely widow attends a dockside seventh-anniversary memorial ritual for fishermen lost at sea, one of whom was her husband. The widow's bosom heaves--her mother-in-law collapses in the arms of the widow's bright, about-to-bloom, utterly American daughter--and a hunky fisherman looks on from the deck of his boat.

It gets worse: The widow (Sofia Milos) smolders under her cold exterior; a stuttering, Hugh Grant-style Englishman (Jason Isaacs) fumbles his way into her heart (complete with sensual food scene); and the grandmother (Lupe Ontiveros) offers more food and life lessons whenever possible. This movie leans very hard on the narrative and visual language of sitcoms, such as the reaction shot and the meaningful look, all woven into Three's Company-style hijinks, and a neat tie-up at the end (Grandma gets a boyfriend). Even the dialogue seems cribbed from TV: "I don't know who you are anymore!" and "For once in your life, fight for something!" This is the tripiest tripe in tripetown: at least if it were about an Italian American community, the grandma could have made trippa alla Fiorentina out of it.