The Constant Gardener

Bomb Rating: 

Apparently neither Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) nor her gardening husband, Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), understand that when you're a white person and you go to Africa, you are supposed to save the black man from himself. How many films have we seen that prove this over and over again? Black people simply cannot take care of themselves and it isn't until the white man shows up that they realize how to do things. It's a constant in American filmmaking and storytelling.

Actually, what Tessa is trying to do is close. She sees a gaggle of drug companies exploiting Africans to test a TB drug and potentially make billions of dollars. The drug has some bad side effects and the Africans are essentially guinea pigs.

Tessa works with an African doctor, Arnold Bloom (Hubert Kounde), and they run around Kenya trying to prove evil doings by the British government. However, they're abruptly put out of their misery. I'm able to reveal this little secret because it's one of the first things we learn in the movie. Tessa is dead and Justin is heartbroken. Usually, in movies where one of the main characters dies, the director saves that little fact for the end so we can get all weepy and be sad.

In "The Constant Gardener," director Fernando ("City of God") Meirelles just throws it in the beginning and then tells part of the story through flashback. I'm sure such things are cute storytelling techniques for little Brazilian films, but now that Meirelles has hit the big time, he needs to learn how it's done. Twists of this nature need to be milked like a cow with its teat attached to an industrial vacuum.

Meirelles also might want to think about making sense. After Justin discovers what his wife was up to, he starts running around Africa and Britain making trouble for the same people who obviously killed his wife. How do we know this? Well, Justin gets notes like "Keep digging and you'll get what your wife got." Personally, at this point, a disguise might have been in order, but Justin just runs around basically endangering every person he talks to.

And although this constitutes some minor nitpicking, I can't help but laugh at the news story that reports Tessa's death -- at the age of 24! I don't know what kind of ego Rachel Weisz is carrying around in her 34-year-old body, but it's apparently grown to the point that it's soon going to require a separate trailer. Honey, like every other chain-smoking, balloon-headed actress, you look your age. Deal with it.

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