Welcome to Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits.
Favorite TV Roles: Oz, Jane the Virgin, The Electric Company
Favorite Movie Roles: West Side Story, Marlowe
Currently starring in a remake of One Day at a Time, which was renewed for a second season.
Casa de los Babys (2003)
Clumped together by circumstance, six women find themselves waiting to adopt babies in South America. The language barrier, and absence of family, puts a cramp on their options for friendship, but they smell blood in the water whenever someone walks out of earshot. No mother-to-be is safe from the gossip of being ruled an unsuitable parent. The longer they wait, the worse it gets, as they become the competition. One woman notes that if they were pregnant they’d have to wait nine months. That doesn’t get a big response.
Instead of leaving conversation to the beck of a translator, director, John Sayles, lets people struggle to communicate and continue speaking without the listener understanding. It’s not mockery, or superiority, but the other person receiving the same attention when they respond. They give each other that time. Asunción, a young Spanish maid (Vanessa Martinez,) talks about needing to give up her baby, Esmeralda, to work and take care of her siblings. Earlier Jennifer (Maggie Gyllenhaal), one of the Americans, spoke about changing her baby’s birth name. It’s makes you wonder what name Esmerelda goes by now.
The beauty of John Sayles’ movies, beyond being panoramic on local, social issues (including unadopted, homeless youth), is that every character has something to do, a significant monologue to work with. That’s what Casa de los Babys consists of, uncut conversations allowed to lagger, unjudged and undiminished, for their entire length. The point has already been gotten across but Sayles doesn’t feel pressure to move on to the next scene as soon as it’s unnecessary to stay. This isn’t about streamlining. Maybe characters don’t appear again for a while after, or interact one-on-one, but their conversations stick in the memory. There’s intimacy to these confessional moments—a friendship that seems so vital, and later, so temporary when back to complete strangers. These momentary lapses can’t be explained.
Rita Moreno is Señora Muñoz, the operator of the hotel where the mothers stay while they wait for their adoptions to go through. Upscale and fashionable, she enters a room the representative of a respectable business, because that’s what she runs, and maintaining it takes work. Involved in every daily decision, her power skirt and gold jewelry set a standard. The look is effortless while there’s nothing free about the control she maintains over her hotel. Moreno makes Señora someone who stands by her decisions because they’ve always been tested.
Test Casa de los Babys and you get Buried Treasure.