Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Andy Garcia's "The Lost City" feels like the distillation of countless conversations and family legends, rehearsed from time immemorial by Cubans who fled their homeland and sought to re-create it in their memories. In every family such stories, repeated endlessly, can become tedious, but there is another sense in which they are a treasured ritual. There was a Cuba, remembered at firsthand only by those who are growing older now, that was a beloved place, and stopped existing when Castro came to power in 1959.
Garcia's family lived in that older Cuba, and so did Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the Cuban writer and film critic who wrote this screenplay. (The project, long discussed, was not easy for Garcia to finance; Infante died in February 2005.) Infante and Garcia do not deceive themselves that the old Cuba was a paradise: It is seen as corrupt, controlled in key areas by the Mafia, and built on a class system in which many were poor so that a few could be rich. The problem is that Castro did not cure the ills so much as distribute them more evenly, so that more could be miserable. Garcia and Infante are against the old and the new, against both the rotten Batista regime and the disappointment of Castro and Che Guevara. There is a moment in the film when a senator agrees that Batista must be overthrown, but argues wistfully that it must be done "constitutionally." Fat chance.
Garcia stars in the film as Fico Fellove, a suave operator who owns and runs a Havana nightclub named El Tropico. Showgirls perform a Vegas-style revue, the customers are elegant and intriguing, and at the door their big sleek American cars glisten in the neon lights. Fico wants this life to continue forever, and like Rick in "Casablanca" he is not particularly political. At a time when Batista's grip seems to be weakening, when reports from the mountains magnify Castro's popularity, he receives a visitor: The gangster Meyer Lansky (Dustin Hoffman), who wants to become Fico's partner in turning El Tropico into a casino. It is the kind of offer Fico can refuse, although that might not be prudent.
Fico's brothers have a different orientation in the dying days of the old regime. Luis (Nestor Carbonell) embraces the revolutionary cause, and Ricardo (Enrique Murciano) journeys into the mountains to fight with Castro. The rest of the family deplores their decisions; Fico comforts Aurora (Ines Sastre), Luis' wife, who complains that her husband is away so much he must be cheating. He is not cheating but rebelling, but never mind: Fico ends by falling in love with her himself.