This highly enjoyable film is told in a narrated form like a Raymond Chandler story. Collin Farrell plays a young writer named Bandini who recently moved to Los Angeles from Colorado. He lives in a type of boarding house where he can just enter his room through the window and he has the view out of the window of the first palm tree he has ever seen. Donald Sutherland plays his alcoholic neighbor who constantly barges into Bandini's room (it is never locked ) to talk about life and to let Bandini know when he is entertaining the milkman so Bandini can grab some milk from the unwatched milk truck.
Bandini idolizes M L Menckin and aspires to be just like him. He writes stories based on his experiences and submits them to Menckin, hoping that Menckin will publish them. Down to his last nickel, Bandini goes to a bar and orders a cup of coffee from the exotic looking Mexican waitress (Salma Hayak). The coffee comes literally curdled from probably spoiled milk. Bandini uses this to appear angry at Hayak because he can think of no better way to strike up a conversation. He later goes back to apologize to Hayak by having the bartender give her a copy of his one published article (Bandini seems to use this ruse with other people when he owes them money). What Bandini doesn't know is that Hayak cannot read English so she cannot really appreciate the "gift" that he left for her and this throws Bandini into a rage.
However, Bandini seems to be totally smitten with Hayak's looks so he continues to pursue her until he has another fight with her. In the meantime a woman comes into Bandini's life who worships Bandini for his writing. The woman is an abuse spouse and Bandini is eventually smitten by her as well. Later when Hayak comes back to Bandini because she too was abused, Bandini then re-falls in love with her. Their relationship has to go through tribulations because of society not readily accepting Mexicans and because Hayak is hiding a serious illness from Bandini.
The film is wonderfully directed and is very open about the racism that existed at that time. Hayak never looked more beautiful and all the acting is first-rate.
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