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Strange French-Canadian musing on the vagaries of love starts interestingly but becomes bogged down in its own quirkiness and over-plotting before petering out with a whimper in an unsatisfactory conclusion.
Daughter Lea is in love with one of her father's boxer's, Reo. He, however, has spurned her in favor of Lea's mom. Lea's mom has left Lea's father Marcel for Reo and is now pregnant by him. That's good parenting, right? Lea's sister Manon, who is grossly overweight, is obsessed with famous writer Chester Celine, who hails from Wyoming, but happens to speak French(?). Manon drops about 150 pounds when she learns Chester is coming to town (I guess on a book tour, though the film never bothers to make that clear), and becomes a slinky, svelte temptress. Interestingly, it seems to take her only a week to lose all that weight, I wonder if Jenny Craig should look into this.
Meanwhile Lea is the object of affection of three other people: another boxer (Johnny) in her father's gym; Albert, a hypnotist at the bar/club where they all hang out; and Nicole, a lesbian who plays music on a large organ grinder type box hanging around her neck and sings around the club. Chester meets and is quickly raped by Manon (yes you read that right), then bumps into and falls in love with Lea. Marcel uses Albert to help him in a plan to get his wife back which involves hypnotizing her to allegedly help her quit smoking, but which really allows Marcel to make love to her while she is in her trance. Manon and Lea square off against one another for the affection of Chester, leading the press to assume that Chester beat up Manon when it was really Lea, who never bothers to try to set the record straight. Meanwhile, to thank Albert for helping her dad try to get her mom back, Lea is allowing him to hypnotize her and make love to her, all the time while she is falling for Chester. Got all that? There's more! The rivalry between Johnny and Reo results in a match being planned for the two of them with Lea's dad putting $50,000 on the line hoping Johnny will beat the crap out of Reo for stealing and impregnating his wife, not to mention dumping his daughter. Everything ends in a rather unsatisfactory and ambiguous manner when: Johnny breaks his hand hitting Chester and can't fight Reo, who gets the $50,000 and Lea's mom; Chester gets hypnotized and thinks he's a boxer, in a rather funny scene, and goes off with Lea, sort of; Albert can't get Chester out of his trance and runs off in a panic; Manon ends up in a convent and Lea's poor dad shoots himself.
There are some positive aspects to the film. The setting is very interesting, kind of a run-down seedy area of Canada. The characters are interesting: there is a transvestite who dresses in colorful caftans and runs the motel adjoining the club; a strange guy at the gym who stands under a sun lamp all the time with his shirt off; and Nicole, the lesbian organ grinder. And there are some weirdly surrealistic touches like the mannequins sitting at tables around the club. The problem is, there are too many quirky people populating this universe and no one normal. None of the people, other than Lea's dad, are particularly likable or behave as one would expect people to behave. From the time we meet Lea she is variously distant and upset and it's hard to sympathize with her, and she's the main character! Her mom and Reo seems like a couple of self-centered flakes, yet they are the only two in the film who end up happy. The only really sympathetic character, Lea's dad, kills himself at the end, that's a really cynical message about love and relationships, but there you are. In the hands of a pro like Almodovar, this might have been a winner, but here it all seems rather disjointed and, ultimately, rather unpleasant.
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