Perfect Fit

The appeal of Alexis Bledel is her authenticity-real girls have quirks.

By Leo Charney
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 5, 2005

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Includes: Commentary track, deleted scenes, making-of featurette.

You'll Like It If You Like: Historical dramas, biopics, stories of the disabled.

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

Looking for something different? This part-anthropological, part-historical, part-religious documentary isn't your same old multiplex movie. It tells the strange, sad story of Christian missionaries who dragged their wives and families to the remote Ecuadorian jungle in the 1950s, only to find themselves-surprise!-speared to death by a notoriously violent local tribe. Left behind to fend for themselves, the families ultimately forgive the attackers and integrate themselves into local life.

Soft-pedaling its Christian message, the movie winds up muting its own drama too. We don't get a lot of context about who these people are, why they're here, what they believe and how they react to the brutal deaths. We do get a fascinating portrait of the insanely violent Auca tribe, who have speared most everyone in the area to death and have no group culture beyond immediate self-interest. Under the missionaries' influence, the Auca murder rate drops by 90 percent-but by playing coy about exactly what that influence is, the movie makes its story frustratingly vague.

The most tantalizing questions remain not only unanswered but unasked: Was the sacrifice of these young husbands and fathers worth it? Did the seemingly passive wives and children feel anger or resentment at the doctrines that lost them their husbands and fathers? "They're not ready for heaven and we are," say the saintly men before losing their lives-but drama comes from conflict, and this movie, for all its morbid fascination, keeps too much of it off-screen. B-

You'll Like It If You Like: Anthropological documentaries, clash-of-cultures stories, religious dramas.

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