Little Somerton, Arizona, a dusty town not far from Yuma and the Mexican border, played host to a favorite daughter filming a very personal story, How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer. Much like Falling for Grace and Bonneville, Georgina Garcia Reidel’s film is an independent labor of love with some impressive star power. America Ferrera, Elizabeth Peña and Steven Bauer, along with the enchanting Lucy Gallardo, all bring to life the story of three generations of women searching for love and sex in a small town where nothing happens.
It’s a quiet, languidly paced character study where the heat, longing, and desire for something more are palpable. Bauer, the Cuban-born actor best known for sizzling performances in Scarface and Thief of Hearts, plays Victor Reyes, the comically macho town lothario and video store owner. He catches the eye of lonely mother (and butcher shop owner) Peña, at the same time as her mother (Gallardo) is striking up a friendship with benefits (free driving lessons) with her gardener, and her daughter (Ferrera) is exploring her sexuality with the new bad boy in town.
Bauer is a true contradiction to his swaggering action star persona. The grandson of a German concert violinist (who escaped the Holocaust) and an opera singer, and whose parents fled Cuba as Castro took over, Bauer is a talented musician who is constantly playing guitar or singing when not acting. He loved working on Garcia Girls and can’t say enough great things about the experience of making the film, the people in Somerton he met, and his excitement that Reidel’s film is finally getting distribution and recognition, three years after it garnered a Grand Jury Award nomination at the Sundance Film Festival.
"For some reason, I have a real affinity for the desert and I just loved that small town feel in Somerton and Yuma," Bauer explained. I was able to speak to him right before he left for the International Women’s Film Festival in his hometown of Miami to show the film.
NC: How was it being this huge burst of testosterone among all those women?
SB: Well, that was fun, that was really fun. Needless to say, I was flattered and honored to be chosen by Georgina for that part, and I just had to try to be humble (laughing), just try to retain some humility and not get too carried away there. It really was a great time, and all of the actors were really into the piece. We were all supporting Georgina in her first feature. I’m just so excited that it finally got distribution. It’s been an uphill battle for her. I don’t know if America’s burst of stardom had anything to do with it …
NC: What did you base Victor’s swaggering machismo on?
SB: Oh, gosh. You know, I’ve known guys like that. I’m always observing types, especially men, and the different form and variety of game that men have in dealing with the opposite sex. God, this is a particular type, because he’s a married man who’s not giving up his day job (laughing), he’s the married guy who still wants to be in high school and is just trying to put as many notches on his gun as possible. And he’s got a way of doing it, because obviously he has a radar for the ones who are vulnerable. It’s a social comedy so it’s not written quite that cruelly, but he’s not the nicest person in the world. I tried to play him with some humor. I did approach it, the arrogance, that he considers himself one-of-a-kind, so unique that "no one can resist me". I thought that would be kind of funny without playing the character too clownish or too much of a stereotype. I tried to be a little subtle with it.
NC: Yeah, your body language was so great.
SB: Oh good, you picked up on that. I liked the way the scenes were cut. And of course, Elizabeth and I had great chemistry together. Every time they yelled "Cut!", everybody was laughing. We’re playing it seriously and I’m swaggering, and the director is cracking up. She was going, "Oh my god, you’re so sleazy! You’re such a creep! You’re such a creep!" I had to tell them to stop making me laugh. It was really fun doing it!
NC: Your pictures from Sundance show you with this big warm smile, but your characters are usually these tough military types. Which one’s closer to you?
SB: (Laughing) I’m that warm person. That’s me. I was raised in a very loving family, so when I came to Hollywood, it was quite a culture shock for me. I really had to learn the way of the world quickly.
How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer opens today in limited release.
UPDATE: How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer is now avaiable on DVDfrom Amazon.com.
Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.