Stars: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martínez, José Luis Gómez
This satire from Argentinian directing duo Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat may prove a little too niche for non-cineastes, but boasts spirited turns from the estimable trio of leads. It begins at the joyless birthday party of billionaire businessman Humberto Suárez (Gómez) with Suarez brooding on how he has no tangible legacy. So, he decides to finance a picture, and the rights to a Nobel prize-winning novel about two conflicted brothers, ‘Rivalry’, are snapped up by Suarez’s people, even though the businessman hasn’t even read it. Pretentious arthouse auteur Lola Cuevas (Cruz under a huge frizzy red mop) is selected to helm the project. In order to create the requisite tension, Cuevas selects two disparate actors as her leads: the dim macho movie star Félix Rivero (Banderas) and self-consciously serious actor Iván Torres (Martínez). During the nine-day rehearsal period, the uncompromising director subjects her cast to a range of indignities: at one point the two performers are required to read a scene with a massive boulder held by a crane hanging over their heads. Cuevas discovers that she may have bitten off more than she can chew however, as the various plotting and subterfuges threaten to derail the project altogether. The satire begins to wear a little thin over an excessive running time, but the leads are typically committed: Banderas can do this brittle machismo in his sleep by now, but it’s still funny. Despite her character’s absurd behaviour and borderline comic appearance with her slightly de trop hipster outfits, perfectly realised by costume designer Wanda Morales, Cruz is still able to invest her character with a weird integrity. The people-dwarfing modernist production design adds a little pathos to the thespian endeavours.
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