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Pepas's lover, Iván, leaves her and she tries to contact him to find out why he's left. In her search for Iván, she confronts his wife and son, who are as clueless as she is. Meanwhile; Candela, her friend, is afraid the police might be looking for her because of her ex-boyfriend, a muslim terrorist, and his criminal activities. As the plot develops, it is revealed that everyone's lives are more intertwined than they could have ever expected. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
"Ask her who the hell is Ivan!" "Who the hell is Ivan?"
There are some movies that, no matter how good the translation, are just impossible for a particular audience to get. This is why I think most of the American audience wasn't be able to get into WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. After directing the rather weak and disappointing drama/thriller LAW OF DESIRE, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar returned to screens in his full glory with this wonderful Academy Award-nominated screwball comedy.
Pepa (Almodovar regular Carmen Maura) works as an actress for TV commercials and dubbing of foreign films. Her lover Ivan (Fernando Guillen), who shares the same job, decides to leave her one day for unknown reasons, leading Pepa to assume he left with his wife Lucia (Julieta Serrano), who was recently released from the mental hospital. But after a while, Pepa realizes Lucia thinks the exact opposite, and that Ivan left for an unknown third woman. While on her quest to find this third woman, Pepa has to deal with her nervous friend Candela (Maria Barranco) who recently found out her boyfriend is a wanted terrorist and Carlos, (Antonio Banderas) Ivan's son whose annoying fiancé ends up getting accidentally knocked off by a rather lethal gazpacho.
Going any further with this film's plot would be unfair since most of the humor is delivered from it's many twists and turns. Almodovar was able to write a script so sharp with so many colorful characters and situations that the entire thing goes down with pure laughter. But is everyone laughing?
That brings me to the answer as to why many people didn't find this funny at all. If you don't speak or understand Spanish, (or some other language that comes from Latin) you won't be able to get this film as much as others. There is a reason why so many American comedians are never able to make it overseas: Humor is simply not international. The rumored but thankfully never completed American remake of this would have never worked. The performances for example: To people who understand the language, you can tell when the characters are being ironic, sarcastic, goofy, or serious. I don't think you can do that very well when English is your first language. So the users that have been complaining about "flat" performances might be already explained.
Almodovar has been accused of being a feminist, and this movie might be the main reason. I don't quite agree with that because WOMEN doesn't really leave strong message. If it does, I know few people who would actually care for it because this movie is hilarious. Every single character in these 90 minutes of absurdity gets well-balanced and get enough amount of time to shine: The MAMBO TAXI driver for example, turns out to be one of the funniest elements. The scenes all by themselves are already OK, but the frequency that they happen make them somehow even funnier. And the first-rate acting gets a big plus in my book. Everyone here is perfect (including a very scary way Almodovar coaches a good performance out of Antonio Banderas) with the true stand-out being Carmen Maura as over-the-top neurotic Pepa. It is a shame this was Maura's last collaboration with Almodovar.
But WOMAN's style is also not to be ignored: Most of the movie is set inside Pepa's apartment, which is put to good use. It is an amazing then-futuristic-looking retro set that with it's sitcom-like camp and artificial looking painted backgrounds becomes almost a character itself. Cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine's camera is always up to interesting moves: There is the tracking shot of Pepa's feet as she walks in circles waiting for her call, or the reflection take from the answering machine. The work with colors is equally stunning, with the main colors being yellow and blue, and Pepa's red dress "over coloring" the environments around her for most of the time. You could freeze frame almost every interior shot of WOMEN... and stare at it for a while.
I can't really recommend this movie enough, as much as hard it is to review comedies. Reviewing a comedy is a tough call since it depends on weather you found the material funny or not. I have seen this over ten times and I always laugh at certain moments which I don't want to spoil. Let's just say the Jehovah's testimony and the TV commercial are the parts that always get me. I certainly did enjoy WOMEN... more than any other comedy I have ever seen.
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