1958. Pro card player Jack Weil (Robert Redford) is in Havana once again, this time to organize the biggest game of his life. While travelling there by boat, his situation-handling skills intrigues fellow passenger/revolution supporter Roberta “Bobby” Duran (Lena Olin) and she hires him to pass her car through the border safely.
After he succeeds, he expectedly hits on Bobby, but she turns him down saying she’s married. An unfazed Jack goes about his business, trying to convince casino owner Joe Volpi (Alan Arkin) to let him organize a big stakes game, hanging out with women and not giving a damn about revolution.
Even after Bobby introduces him to her husband Arturo (Raul Julia), a important rebel, and he tells Jack that they could use his skills, Jack turns them down.
But when the police start capturing rebels, Arturo is announced dead, and Bobby goes missing, Jack decides to use his resourcefulness to help out Bobby. Only Bobby will turn out to be even more stubborn than he is, and will awaken things in Jack that he never knew existed.
Can Jack manage to win his biggest game and get out of Cuba without getting into trouble, or will he become as crazy about Bobby as she is about the revolution and do the unexpected of him?
A Beautiful, Political Journey of Internal Change
Havana is an alluring period drama/romance in a political background in an exotic city. Jack’s latest experiences in Havana, and his change and growth as a person, get more focus than the romance, so the movie will be better appreciated as an interesting drama than a romantic film. That’s not to say we don’t get some extremely brave and romantic gestures from Redford, and as usual, he seduces his co-star as he also easily seduces his audience.
Jack makes for an interesting romantic lead, as even with all the gambling, smoking, women and drinking, he never strikes us as unworthy or disreputable. If anything, his character seemed more realistic than selfish to me. He’s an American card-player who is in Cuba for business and fun, and not every foreigner would jump to risk his life to get involved in the dangerous and complicated politics of another country. Sure, it is noble to help others. Ideally, we should. But then it isn’t in everyone. And it would raise the question: why is the survival of others more important than his own?
So I can totally relate to his noninvolvement in the beginning, as it is a logical self-preservation strategy. But what he does for Bobby, doesn’t come as an unrealistic development either. Her passion, beauty and her highly different background intrigue him and brings out a passion in him he never experienced. He follows his heart rather than logic, and this is what magnetically draws Bobby to him later on.
That said, be prepared to give the lead to Havana and Jack rather than Jack and Bobby.
Written by Judith Rascoe and David Rayfiel, directed by Sydney Pollack. 1990.
Havana Movie and Cast Trivia
- Onscreen, Robert Redford’s often romantically paired with actresses younger than him:
* Havana: Lena Olin 19 years his junior
* Out of Africa: Mery Streep 13 years
* Up close and Personal: Michelle Pfeiffer 22 years
* Indecent Proposal: Demi Moore 26 years
* The Horse Whisperer: Kristin Scott Thomas 24 years
Interestingly enough, although some moviegoers make an issue of age differences on the screen, nobody seems to be bothered when it is Robert. I know I’m not. Although I have to say my favorites among these pairings are with Lena Olin and Michelle Pfeiffer.
-Robert worked with Lena’s Swedish director husband Lasse Hallström for the movie An Unfinished life. Lena often works with her husband as well (Chocolat, Casanova…).
-Redford is an Oscar-nominated actor, but an Oscar-winning director. But unlike Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves) he wasn’t nominated for both for the same movie. He wasn’t in acting in Ordinary People, the 1980 movie that got him the Oscar. Ordinary People also earned Timothy Hutton Oscar for Best Supporting actor.
Redford’s other Best Director nomination was for Quiz Show, a 1994 movie starring Ralph Fiennes. Quiz Show didn’t feature Redford as an actor either.
- Havana was directed by actor/director Sydney Pollack who guest-appeared on the sitcom Will & Grace as Will’s father.
-Havana was nominated for Grammy, Golden Globe and Oscar for its music.
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Also on Lena Olin