Movie Review: ‘Love Ranch’

Movie Review: ‘Love Ranch’

While the story of the first legal brothel in Nevada already sounds like an intriguing tale, Love Ranch is somewhat unnecessarily made more enticing by a fictional love triangle that ends in murder. Grace and Charlie Bontempo (Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci) are a husband/wife team who own and run one of Nevada’s first legalized […]

While the story of the first legal brothel in Nevada already sounds like an intriguing tale, Love Ranch is somewhat unnecessarily made more enticing by a fictional love triangle that ends in murder.

Grace and Charlie Bontempo (Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci) are a husband/wife team who own and run one of Nevada’s first legalized brothel ranches. Their lives are irrevocably altered when Armando Bruza (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a world famous heavyweight boxer from South America, is brought to the Love Ranch to train as part of Charlie’s ever expanding entrepreneurial empire. However, plans quickly go awry when Bruza comes between Grace and Charlie forming an unforeseen romantic triangle.

The gritty images worn by the harsh desert add to the character of the story. Everything appears to be affected by the climate: washed out and yellowed. In contrast, the inside of the Love Ranch tries to break through with rich reds and vibrantly dressed, lively girls.

Pesci is at his best when playing a loud mouth with big ideas that doesn’t know when to stop. Charlie is unmistakably reminiscent of his character in Goodfellas. Mirren proves she has many sides and we still haven’t seen them all. As a madam, she proves stern but practical, repeatedly showing it’s not always about the business. Peris-Mencheta is charming though not at all smooth and his eyes continually hint at the handsomeness hidden behind his mounds of hair. Gina Gershon still manages to shine even though her role is limited, conveying a lot simply through expression and tone.

The complicated love story progresses naturally, even though none of the relationships appear as ordinary. Grace is finally ready to put her needs first and although her heart had led her here, it hadn’t been in the business or her marriage for some time; now it was pushing her towards a new, more indulgent life. On the other hand, Charlie is the business and for him the marriage is an inseparable part of that equation; albeit he’s done little to nurture either. Bruza is simply an unexpected wild card that pushes everything over the edge.

Director Taylor Hackford has a gift for bringing complex stories and characters to the screen in a manner that is not only accessible, but captivating. In the wrong hands, these characters could be dismissed as unrealistic, non-people; however, in Hackford’s, they are unforgettable.