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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in The Bulletin staff’s series of reviews of movies available on various streaming services.
Put in one part Marlon Brando, one part Johnny Depp, one part Faye Dunaway and a dash of Selena, then mix it all together. What emerges is a lovely little 1994 film about the world’s greatest lover.
“Don Juan deMarco” stars Depp as the title character, often masked and caped, possessed of a Castilian accent and sweeping women off their collective feet in restaurants, hotels, harems and anywhere else he can use his charm and unique powers of seduction.
That’s how he sees himself, at least. To the rest of the world, he’s bat-guano crazy, as evidenced by a critical scene early in the film during which Don Juan stands on the ledge of a billboard, threatening to jump and end it all.
The cops can’t talk him down, so they employ a scissor lift to elevate Dr. Jack Mickler (Brando) to the edge of the billboard, where he convinces Don Juan to join him. Don Juan immediately recognizes his new friend as Don Octavio de Flores, and he creates a back story for him that cements their odd relationship going forward.
Dr. Mickler/Don Octavio is the psychiatrist into whose care Don Juan is entrusted for a dose of reality and some strong medication. Mickler is given 10 days to stabilize the handsome and delusional young patient.
During their sessions, Don Juan recounts the tale of his parents – Don Antonio (Franc Luz) and Doña Inez (Rachel Ticotin), as well as his own travels and adventures. The lengthy flashback scenes are engaging, frequently hysterical and consistently romantic.
During one of the flashbacks, the filmgoer is treated to the voice and performing skills of Selena as the Ranchera Singer, performing “El Toro Relajo.” It’s jaw-dropping.
Between sessions with Dr. Mickler, Don Juan enamors himself to the staff of the psychiatric facility. The women are mesmerized by him, and the men want little more than to emulate his free spirit and skills of romantic conquest.
After each session, Dr. Mickler finds himself further and further drawn into Don Juan’s story, to the point that he begins romancing his own wife, Marilyn (Dunaway), although it takes a while to sway her, because their marriage has been for so very long stagnant.
The good doctor eventually elicits Don Juan’s true name and backstory, and it is – of course – not nearly as fabulous as that of his alter ego. It is, in fact, just sad.
But the truth is used ultimately only as a tool to allow Don Juan to return to the world, bringing Don Octavio and his suddenly blushing bride along for the ride.
The final scene takes place on the white, sandy beach of an island in St. Somewhere where additional magic ensues. No spoilers here.
As the scene fades out, the voice of Bryan Adams rolls in like a wave with “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” The song did well on the pop charts and is the perfect summary of the preceding 97 minutes of gorgeous cinematography and enough love stories to light a fire in the coldest, most cynical of hearts.
Jeremy Leven directs his own screenplay. Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs and Patrick Palmer produce.