"Americano" - Movie Review World Premiere showing at the Palm Springs International Film Festival

Americano introduces you to three American travelers, on the last leg of their European vacation, and in the middle of the San Fermin Festival (Running of the Bulls). Almost immediately, a situation arises for the group, when Chris (Joshua Jackson) has his backpack stolen. This singular incident changes the scope of the remainder of the trip for the trio.

They stop in a club called the “Americano”, which is run by a crazy club owner (Dennis Hopper). This is where we also meet a lovely and mysterious Spanish beauty, Adela (Leonor Varela). As time goes on, Chris, Ryan (Timm Sharp) and Michelle (Ruthanna Hopper) find themselves taking part in the running of the bulls and watching the bull fight itself. They again run into Adela, and she and Chris begin to show their growing attraction to each other. We soon find out that Chris is struggling with the notion of returning to the States and taking what appears to be a great job. His increasing, and overwhelming, feeling that he’s missing out on a better life lead him to consider taking the road less traveled.

With a touch of Hemingway shown in various points of the film (of whom director Kevin Noland was inspired by to tell this story), we are taken to the countryside of Spain, and Adela’s home. A beautiful romance grows between Adela and Chris, and even more zany and unexpected comic relief provided by Ryan (Sharp) and Michelle (Hopper). (As a side note, I cannot stress enough the absolutely adorable chemistry between Josh and Leonor. With an amazing sense of timing and believable romance between the two, it left me, and many in the audience, truly touched and impressed by what you saw on-screen.)

I don’t want to give too much away of this film, as the main thing is for you to go out and see it once it becomes available in theaters. But what I found so intriguing was the cinematography and acting that was captured on film. The running of the bulls was not only real footage, but filmed on location with Josh Jackson running next to the bulls (one of which Josh was able to slap and which was captured on film!). This, and another great story, was mentioned during the Q&A session after the premiere by Kevin Noland. “We enlisted a professional Spanish bullfighter to allow us to film him during an actual bullfight at the San Fermin festival. Shooting real time inside a packed arena had not been done until Americano, which allowed me to provoke important discussions of cultural relativism.” This is what made Americano such a wonderful story and a touching tribute through independent film.

- Mandy Dailey, Josh-Jackson.net

Reviews from our J-J.net crew

Before I get into what I thought of it, I'd just like to say that the movie was popular enough to warrant the organizers to move it from one theater to two, to accommodate all the people who wanted to see it. The festival person also said (in the Q&A segment after the movie) that when they were choosing movies for the festival, they were really taken with this one. This coming from someone who screens hundreds of entries every year. Pretty impressive!

Having said that, I loved this movie! More than I even thought I would (which was a lot to begin with), truth be told. All four main cast members - Leonor Varela, Timm Sharp, Ruthanna Hopper, and, oh, yeah, Josh - were fantastic! They each totally embodied their characters, and what niche that character was to fill in the story.

I think it's pretty well known, but the plot is about three Americans - Chris (Josh), Ryan (Timm), and Michelle (Ruthanna) - travelling through Spain after college graduation and before embarking on the "real world." After running with the bulls (incredibly filmed - it freaked me out!), they meet a local woman, Adella (Leonor), and Chris is immediately smitten. The four end up leaving Pamplona and going to her family's home for a camping and fishing trip, where Chris starts to wonder if he's choosing the right path for his life.

The scenery is beautiful, and the movie just has a romantic, Hemingway-esque look to it. This was not unintentional, as Kevin Noland, the writer/director, told us in the Q&A that he is a huge Hemingway fan, and that was part of his inspiration to tell this story. There's humor (in particular, with Timm Sharp's character - he is hysterical), there's romance (more on that in a moment), there's action, and there's eccentricity - provided courtesy of Dennis Hopper, in a small role as a club owner who challenges Chris to do the unconventional.

As to the romance aspect of the story, I have to say that Josh and Leonor (who is even more beautiful in person than on the screen) have amazing chemistry together. Their scenes together were sweet, romantic, and sexy (the term "muy caliente" seems fitting). I had no trouble believing these two characters would be drawn towards each other. Just wonderful!

- Charise, for Josh-Jackson.net