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Don Juan Demarco

Rated PG-13, 97 min. Directed by Jeremy Leven. Starring Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Rachel Ticotin, Bob Dishy, Talisa Soto.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., April 14, 1995

In real life, true love may elude the best of us, but in the enchanting Don Juan DeMarco, affairs of the heart are realized by virtue of one's simple belief in their existence. Although flawed in many respects -- it's not as smooth and silky a movie as it could have been -- Don Juan DeMarco nevertheless evokes a romantic mood that tickles and caresses; in a way, it's a movie version of spring fever. Director/screenwriter Leven's script about a young man who suffers from the delusion that he is the legendary great lover, Don Juan, is awkwardly constructed, but it shines when demonstrating how its title character's fantasy affects the lives of those around him, particularly the state-appointed psychiatrist who treats Don Juan after a suicide attempt over unrequited love. As the rejuvenated doctor inspired by his patient to rekindle a marriage of 32 years and to seize the day in his later years, Brando is a marvel. At first, his bulky frame and sagging jowls belie any traditional notion of romance, but as he becomes entranced by his patient's conviction in the power of love, Brando radiates with the joy of life's pleasures. (He may not look good in a torn T-shirt anymore, but he can still romanticize an ideal.) Don Juan DeMarco is refreshing in its depiction of love after 50 -- neither Brando nor Dunaway (who's wonderfully unaffected here) are spring chickens, but the depth of their commitment and their understanding of each other speak volumes, so much so that it may evoke jealousy in jaded twentysomethings. As the catalyst for all of this romance, Depp demonstrates that he -- along with Leonardo DiCaprio and James LeGros, among others -- embodies the best of his generation of actors. His performance is fluid and convincing, and he makes for quite a romantic figure… even if he does look like Zorro. Like this corny but lovely movie, he's oh-so-difficult to resist.
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