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Gaudi Afternoon

Gaudi Afternoon
Marcia Gay Harden is on a roll.

Boldly segueing from art to kitsch, she follows her serious, Oscar-winning turn in "Pollock" with an absolute blast of a performance as a pre-op male-to-female transsexual in Susan Seidelman's gender-bending farce "Gaudi Afternoon".

She's easily the best thing about this otherwise flaky comedy -- set against the whimsical backdrop of Antonio Gaudi's art nouveau architecture -- which starts off energetically but rapidly wears out its forcefully quirky welcome.

Given its Los Angeles debut at this year's Outfest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the as-yet-to-be-picked-up film will have a tough time breaking out of its niche confines in spite of a high-profile cast.

The always game Judy Davis, last seen on the small screen as Judy Garland, dresses down as Cassandra Reilly, a rather frumpy American translator working in Barcelona, Spain, where she's having trouble finding the right English words for her current literary assignment.

As if she isn't distracted enough already, along comes the enigmatic Frankie Stevens (Harden), fresh from San Francisco and striking an unmistakably '40s film noir femme fatale pose as she approaches Cassandra with an unusual job offer.

But what initially was pitched as a little translation work gets more convoluted by the minute, as Cassandra soon finds herself embroiled in a dysfunctional family drama involving Frankie's estranged spouse, Ben (Lili Taylor), their bratty daughter Delilah (Courtney Jines) and Ben's New Age-y girlfriend April (Juliette Lewis), just for starters.

With its colorful assortment of gay, bisexual and transgender characters, "Gaudi Afternoon", based on a 1990 novel of the same name by Barbara Wilson, is the kind of material that's desperately seeking Almodovar.

While Seidelman at first seems to have rediscovered that "Desperately Seeking Susan" spark, she ends up going all Spielberg, shifting awkwardly into a mawkishly sentimental third act.

By that point, even Harden can't save the show, though she comes mighty close. With her face virtually encased in pancake and her voice affecting a husky, uncertain breathiness, she's a comic bundle of sexual confusion. If you hadn't seen her before, you'd swear her role was played by a guy.

Chameleon Davis, meanwhile, whose performance here is very Anne Bancroft, is fine, too, though she is stifled by her essentially one-note character.

Also amusing is Lewis as the touchy-feely April Schauer (get it?), while Taylor is uncomfortably off as the butch Ben (formerly Bernadette).

But if the artificially offbeat film disappoints, at least its title delivers the goods. Taking full advantage of its location, "Gaudi Afternoon" serves as a handy Gaudi primer, setting numerous scenes against the striking, capricious structures that should have served as a blueprint for the picture's ramshackle design.

GAUDI AFTERNOON

Lolafilms

Director: Susan Seidelman

Screenwriters: James Myhre, Joaquin Oristrell

Based on the novel by: Barbara Wilson

Producer: Andres Vicente Gomez

Executive producer: Frida Torresblanco

Director of photography: Jose Maria Civit

Art director: Antxon Gomez

Editor: Deirdre Slevin

Costume designers: Yvonne Blake, Antonia Marques

Music: Bernardo Bonezzi

Color/stereo

Cast:

Cassandra Reilly: Judy Davis

Frankie Stevens: Marcia Gay Harden

Ben Harris: Lili Taylor

April Schauer: Juliette Lewis

Carmen: Maria Barranco

Hamilton Kincaid: Christopher Bowen

Delilah Stevens: Courtney Jines

Running time -- 93 minutes

No MPAA rating

See also

Credited With | External Sites