The Godfather Part II used the fall of Batista as a backdrop for one of film’s most corrosive fraternal betrayals. It’s fitting, then, that in his long-gestating Cuba project, director, actor and composer Andy Garcia should play a man who never takes sides against his kin. But in The Lost City, the family is a microcosm, and nightclub owner Fico Fellove (Garcia) mostly stands on the sidelines. His brothers (Enrique Muricano and Nestor Carbonell) yearn for revolucin; his father (Tomas Milian) trumpets constitutional overthrow. Fico simply wants his music, and eventually his brother’s wife (Sastre). All the while, Garcia wants a bigger canvas.
As Fico’s personal story, The Lost City drags on into oblivion. But as an attempt to grapple with Cuban history, the film is heartbreakingly inadequate. Politics are reduced to visual shorthand (Batista is first seen mid-siesta), motivations to risible pronouncements (“In a revolution, the end justifies the means,” Che Guevara helpfully explains). Cuba’s destitute seem outnumbered by its character actors—although Bill Murray, as an expatriate writer modeled on novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante (who wrote the screenplay), and Dustin Hoffman, as Meyer Lansky, make the most of Garcia’s indulgence. As with his native Cuba, the director loves his film so much that he can’t bear to see it compromised. His ardor is easy to respect—but in the end, it’s tempting to say, “You broke our hearts, Andy, you broke our hearts.” (Opens Fri.)—Ben Kenigsberg